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THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
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THE CITY IN THE
C. RANGER GULL
Author of "The Air Pirate" I
HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC.
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A. BY
THE QUINN a BODEN COMPANY
RAHWAY. N. J
SIR GRIFFITH BOYNTON, Bt.
My Dear Boynton,
We have had some strange adven-
tures TOGETHER, THOUGH NOT AS STRANGE
AND EXCITING AS THE ONES TREATED OF IN
THIS STORY. At ANY RATE, ACCEPT IT AS A
SOUVENIR OF THOSE GAY DAYS BEFORE THE
War, WHICH now seem an age away.
Recall a Christmas dinner in the Villa
Sanglier by the Belgian Sea, a certain
moonlit midnight in the Grand' Place
OF an ancient, famous city, and above
all, the stir and ardors of the
Masked Ball at Vieux Bruges. — Haec
GLIM MEMINISSE JUVABIT!
C. R. G.
By Sir Thomas Kirby, Bt.
The details of this prologue to the astounding
occurrences which it is my privilege to chronicle,
were supplied to me when my work was just com-
It forms the starting point of the story, which
travels straight onwards.
THE CITY IN THE
Under a gay awning of red and white which covered a
portion of the famous roof-garden of the Palacete Men-
doza at Rio, reclined Gideon Mendoza Morse, the richest
man in Brazil, and — it was said — the third richest man
in the world.
He lay in a silken hammock, smoking those little Bra-
zilian cigarettes which are made of fragrant black tobacco
and wrapped in maize leaf.
It was afternoon, the hour of the siesta. From where
he lay the millionaire could look down upon his marvelous
gardens, which surrounded the white palace he had built
for himself, peerless in the whole of South America.
The trunks of great trees were draped with lianas bear-
ing brilliantly-colored flowers of every hue. There were
lawns edged with myrtle, mimosa, covered with the golden
rain of their blossoms, immense palms, lazily waving their
fans in the breeze of the afternoon, and set in the lawns
were marble pools of clear water from the center of which
fountains sprang. There was a continual murmur of in-
10 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
sects and flashes of rainbow-colored light as the tiny, bril-
liant humming birds whirred among the flowers. Great
butterflies of blue, silver, and vermilion, butterflies as large
as bats, flapped languidly over the ivory ferns, and the air
was spicy and scented with vanilla.
Beyond the gardens was the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, the
most beautiful bay in all the world, dominated by the
great sugar-loaf mountain, the Pao de Azucar, and studded
with green islands.
Gideon Morse took a pair of high-powered field-glasses
from a table by his side and focused them upon the harbor.
A large white yacht, lying off Governador, swam into
the circle, a five-thousand-ton boat driven by turbines and
oil fuel, the fastest and largest private yacht in existence.
Gideon Morse gave a little quiet, patient sigh, as if of
He was a man of sixty odd, with a thick thatch of white
hair which came down upon his wrinkled forehead in a
peak. His face was tanned to the color of an old saddle,
his nose beaked like a hawk, and his mouth was a mere
lipless cut which might have been made by a knife. A
strong jaw completed an impression of abnormal quiet,
and long enduring strength. Indeed the whole face was
a mask of immobility. Beneath heavy black brows were
eyes as dark as night, clear, but without expression. No
one looking at them could ever tell what were the thoughts
behind. For the rest, he was a man of medium height,
thick-set, wiry, and agile.
A brief sketch of Gideon Mendoza Morse's career must
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS ii
be given here. His mother was a Spanish lady of good
family, resident in Brazil; his father an American gentle-
man of Old Virginia, who had settled there after the war
between North and South. Morse was born a native of
Brazil. His parents left him a moderate fortune which he
proceeded to expand with extraordinary rapidity and suc-
cess. When the last Emperor, Dom Pedro II., was deposed
in 1889, Gideon Mendoza Morse was indeed a rich man,
and a prominent politician.
He took a great part in establishing the Republic, though
in his earlier years he had leaned towards the Monarchy,
and he shared in the immense prosperity which followed
His was not a paper fortune. The fluctuations of stocks
and shares could hardly influence it. He owned immense
coffee plantations in Para, and was practically the monopo-
list of the sugar regions of Maranhao, but his greatest
revenues came from his immense holdings in gold, man-
ganese, and diamond mines. He had married a Spanish
lady early in his career and was now a widower with one
She came up upon the roof-garden now, a tall slip of
a girl "with an immense quantity of lustrous, dead-black hair,
and a voice as clear as an evening bell.
"Father," she said in English — she had been at school
at Eastbourne, and had no trace of Spanish accent — "what
is the exact hour that we sail?"
Morse slipped out of the hammock and took her arm in
12 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"At ten to-night, Juanita," he replied, patting her hand.
"Are you glad, then?"
"Glad! I cannot tell you how much."
"To leave all this" — he waved his hand at what was
probably the most perfect prospect earth has to offer — "to
leave all this for the fogs and gloom of London?"
"I don't mind the fogs, which, by the way, are tremen-
dously exaggerated. Of course I love Rio, father, but I
long to be in London, the heart of the world, where all
the nicest people are and where a girl has freedom such
as she never has here."
"Freedom!" he said. "Ah!" — and was about to con-
tinue when a native Indian servant in a uniform of white
linen with gold shoulder knots, advanced towards them
with a salver upon which were two calling cards.
Morse took the cards. A slight gleam came into his
eyes and passed, leaving his face as impassive as before.
"You must run away, darling," he said to Juanita. "I
have to see some gentlemen. Are all your preparations
"Everything. All the luggage has gone down to the har-
bor except just a couple of hand-bags which my maid has."
"Very well then, we will have an early meal and leave
The girl flitted away. Morse gave some directions to
the servant, and, shortly after, the rattle of a lift was
heard from a little cupola in one corner of the roof.
Two men stepped out and came among the palms and
flowers to the millionaire.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 13
One was a thin, dried-up, elderly man with a white
mustache — the Marquis da Silva; his companion, powerful,
black-bearded and yellow-faced, obviously with a touch of
the half-caste in him — Don Zorilla y Toro.
"Pray be seated," said Morse, with a low bow, though
he did not offer to shake hands with either of them. "May
I ask to what I owe the pleasure of this visit?"
"It is very simple, senor," said the marquis, "and you
must have expected a visit sooner or later."
The old man, speaking in the pure Spanish of Castille,
trembled a little as he sat at a round table of red lima-
wood encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
"We are, in short," said the burly Zorilla, "ambassa-
They were now all seated round the table, under the shade
of a palm whose great fans clicked against each other in the
evening breeze which began to blow from the cool heights
of the sugar-loaf mountain. The face of Gideon Morse
was inscrutable as ever. It might have been a mask of
leather; but the old Spanish nobleman was obviously ill at
ease, and the bulging eyes of the well-dressed half-caste,
with his diamond cuff links and ring, spoke of suppressed
and furious passion.
In a moment tragedy had come into this paradise.
"Yes, we are ambassadors," echoed the marquis with a
"A grand and full-sounding word," said Gideon Morse.
"I may be permitted to ask — from whom?"
Quick as lightning Don Zorilla held out his hand over
14 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
the table, opened it, and closed it again. There was a
little glint of light from his palm as he did so.
Morse leant back in his chair and smiled. Then he lit
one of his pungent cigarettes.
"So! Are you playing with those toys still, gentlemen?"
The marquis flushed. "Mendoza," he said, "this is idle
trifling. You must know very well — "
"I know nothing, I want to know nothing."
The marquis said two words in a low voice, and then
the heads of the three men drew very close together. For
two or three minutes there was a whispering like the rustle
of the dry grasses of the Brazilian campos, and then Morse
drew back his chair with a harsh noise.
"Enough!" he said. "You are madmen, dreamers! You
come to me after all these years, to ask me to be a party
in destroying the peace and prosperity our great country
enjoys and has enjoyed for more than thirty years. You
ask me, twice President of the Republic which I helped to
make — "
Zorilla lifted his hand and the great Brazilian diamonds
in his rings shot out baleful fires.
"Enough, seiior," he said in a thick voice. "That is
your unalterable decision?"
Morse laughed contemptuously. "While Azucar stands,"
he said, "I stand where I am, and nothing will change
"You stand where you are, Mendoza," said the marquis
with a new gravity and dignity in his voice, "but I assure
you it will not be for long. You have two years to run,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 15
that's true. But at the end of them be sure, oh, be very
sure, that the end will come, and swiftly."
"I will endeavor to put the remaining two years to good
use," he said, with grim and almost contemptuous mockery.
"Do so, seiior," said Zorilla, "but remember that in our
forests the traveler may press onward for days and weeks,
and all the time in the tree-tops, the silent jaguar is fol-
lowing, following, waiting — "
"I have traveled a good deal in our forests in my youth,
Don Zorilla. I have even slain many jaguars."
The three men looked at each other steadily and long,
then the two visitors bowed and turned to go. But, just
as they were moving off towards the lift dome, Zorilla turned
back and held out a card to Don Mendoza. It was an
ordinary visiting card with a name engraved upon it.
Morse took it, looked at the name, and then stood still
and frozen in his tracks.
He did not move until the whirr of the bell and the clang
of the gate told him the roof-garden was his own again.
Then he staggered to the table like a drunken man, sank
into a chair and bowed his head upon the gleaming pearl
When my father died and left me his large fortune I also
inherited that very successful London newspaper, the Eve-
ning Special. I decided to edit it myself.
To be six-and-twenty, to live at high pressure, to go
everywhere, see everything, know everybody, and above
all to have Power, this is success in life. I would not have
changed my position in London for the Premiership.
On the evening of Lady Brentford's dance, I dined alone
in my Piccadilly fiat. There was nothing much doing in
the way of politics and I had been playing golf at San-
down the whole of the day. I hadn't seen the paper until
now, when Preston brought it in — the last edition — and I
opened it over my coffee.
There were, and are, few things that I love better than
the Evening Special. I claim for it that it is the most up-
todate evening newspaper in England, bright and readable
from the word "go," and singularly accurate in all its infor-
There was a long time yet before I need dress, and I sat
by the balcony, with the mellow noises of Piccadilly on
an early summer's evening pouring into the room, and read
the rag through.
On one of the last pages, where the society gossip and
women's chat appear, I saw something that interested me.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 17
Old Miss Easey, who writes the society news, was one of
my most valued contributors. With her hooked nose, her
beady black eyes and marvelous coffee-colored wig, she went
everywhere by right of birth, for she was connected with
half the peerage. Her news was accurate and real. She
faked nothing, because she got all her stuff from the inside,
and this was known all over London. She was well worth
the thousand a year I paid her, and the daily column signed
"Vera" was an accepted fact in the life of London society.
To-day the old girl had let herself go. It seemed — of
course there had been paragraphs in the papers for some
days — that the great Brazilian millionaire, Gideon Men-
doza Morse, had exploded in society like a bomb. He had
taken a whole floor of the Ritz Hotel, and it was rumored
that he was going to buy an empty palace in Park Lane
and astonish town. Every one was saying that he had
wealth beyond the dreams of avarice — ^which is, of course,
awful rot when you come to think of it, because there are
no bounds whatever to avarice.
"Vera" was not expatiating upon the Brazil Nut's wealth,
but upon his only daughter. It was put in a veiled way,
and that with well-bred reticence for which we paid Miss
Easey a thousand a year — no cheap gush, thank you, in the
Evening Special — that Miss Morse was a young girl of
such superlative loveliness that there was not a debutante to
come within a mile of her. I gathered, also, that the young
lady's first very public appearance was to be made to-night
at the house of the Marchioness of Brentford in Belgrave
i8 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
The news certainly gave an additional interest to the
prospect of the evening, and I wondered what the girl
was really like.
I had motored up from Sandown and sat down to dinner
as I was. Perhaps I was rather tired, but as I sat by the
window and dusk came over the Green Park while all the
lights of Piccadilly were lit, I sank into a sort of doze,
assisted by the deep, organ-like hum of the everlasting
Yes, I must really have fallen asleep, for I was certainly
in the middle of some wild and alluring adventure, when I
woke with a start to find all the lights in my dining-room
turned on, Preston standing by the door, and Pat Moore
shaking me violently by the shoulder.
"Confound you, don't do that!" I shouted, jumping up
— Pat Moore was six feet two in height, and the heaviest
man in the Irish Guards. "Hallo, what are you doing
"It's myself that has looked in for a drink," he said. "I
thought we'd go to the ball together."
I was a little more awake by this time and saw that Pat
was in full evening kit, and very grand he looked. He
was supposed to be the handsomest man in London, on
the large swaggering side, and certainly, whether in uni-
form or mufti, he was a very splendid figure. Nevertheless,
he had no more idea of side than a spaniel dog, and he
was just about as kind and faithful as the sportsman's
friend. He possessed a certain downright honesty and
common sense that endeared him to every one, though his
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 19
own mother would hardly have called him clever. At an
earlier period of our lives he had caned me a good deal
at Eton, and it was difficult to get out of his dear, stupid
old head that he had not some vague rights over me in that
"Now, Tom," he said, pouring himself out a mighty drink
— for his head was cast-steel, "you go and make yourself
look pretty and then come back here, 'cos I have some-
thing to tell you."
I went obediently away, bathed, shaved, was assisted by
Preston into evening clothes and returned to the dining-
room about a quarter to ten.
"What have you got to tell me, Pat?"
He thought for a moment. I believe that he always
had to summon his words out of some cupboard in his
brain — "Tom, I've seen the most beautiful girl in the
"Then leg it, Pat, hare away from temptation, or she'll
have you!" — Pat had ten thousand a year and had been
a dead mark for all sorts of schemes for the last two
"Don't be a silly ass, Tom, you don't know what you're
talking about. This is serious."
"I don't know who you're talking about."
He was heaving himself out of his chair to explain, when
the door opened and Preston announced "Lord Arthur
"Hallo, what brings you here?" I said.
"Thought I'd come in for a drink. Saw you were going
20 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
to mother's to-night, Tom, thought we might as well be
going together. Hallo, Pat. You coming along too?"
"Thought of doin' so," said Captain Moore.
Arthur threw himself into a chair — slim, clean shaved,
with curly black hair and dark blue eyes, his clean-cut,
clever face alive with youth and vitality.
"Tom," he said to me, *'to-night you are going to see
the most beautiful girl in the world."
*'Hallo!" Pat shouted, "you've seen her too?"
"Seen her? Of course I have. Mother's giving the dance
for her to-night."
Then I understood.
"Oh, Miss Morse?" I said.
"Jooaneeta!" said Pat in his rich, Irish voice.
"Generally pronounced 'Whanita' soft — ^like tropic moon-
light, my old geranium," said Arthur.
"Sure, your pronunciation won't do at all, at all."
Pat twirled the end of his huge mustache, then he heaved
a cushion. "You and your talk!" he said.
"Well, I've not seen her," I remarked, "but I'm quite
willing to take the word of two experts. Isn't it about time
Winstanley produced a platinum watch no thicker than
a half-crown from the pocket of his white waistcoat.
"Well, perhaps it might be," he said. "We can take
up strategic positions, and get there before the crush. Al-
though I don't live at home, I've got a snug little couple of
rooms they keep for me, and mother will see that — "
He smiled to himself.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 21
"Now look here," I said, "fair does! You are already
half-way up the course with the fair Brazilian, but do
let your pals have a chance. I suppose all the world will
be round her, but do see that Pat and I have a small
"Of course I will. We've done too much hunting to-
gether, we three. I tell you, Tom, you will be bowled clean
over at the very sight of her. There never was such a girl
since Cleopatra was a flapper. Now, send old Preston for
a taxi and we'll get to cover side."
It was about half-past ten as we entered the hospitable
portals of Brentford House in Belgrave Square. There
was a tremendous crush; I never remember seeing so many
people at Lady Brentford's, for, though everybody went
to her parties, they were never overcrowded, owing to the
immense size of the famous old London House.
Pat Moore and I kept close to Arthur, who, as a son of
the house, knew his way a great deal better than we did,
and we soon found ourselves at the top of the staircase
and close to the alcove where Lady Brentford and her
daughter, Lady Joan Winstanley, were standing, while I
saw the bald head of the marquis, who was as innocent
of hair as a new laid egg, shining in the background.
Dear Lady Brentford greeted Pat — ^who had formed a
sort of battering-ram for us on the staircase — with marked
kindness. It was thought that she saw in him a pros-
pective husband for Arthur's sister. After greeting his
mother and asking a question, Arthur went off at once
and my turn came.
22 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"My dear Sir Thomas, I am so glad to see you. Are
you like all the other young men in London to-night?"
"I sincerely hope not," I told her, though I knew very
well what she meant.
We were old friends, and she was not deceived for a
moment, "I understand you perfectly, you wicked boy."
' 'Well then, Lady Brentford" — I lowered my voice — "has
Her eyes gleamed.
"Not yet, but I am expecting her every moment. Now,
I am going to be kind to you. You wait here, just a little
behind me, and I'll introduce you at once."
I hope I looked as grateful as I felt, for I confess my
curiosity was greatly aroused, and besides it would be such
a score over Pat and Arthur. There's something in power
after all! Had I been merely Tom Kirby whose father
had received a baronetcy for, say, soap, Lady Brentford
would not have been nearly as nice, even though Arthur
and I had been bosom friends at Oxford. But you see I
was the Evening Special and that meant much, especially
in a political house like this.
I waited, and talked a little with Lord Brentford, that
sterling, old-fashioned member of more Cabinets than one
would care to count. He said "hum," and then "ha," and
then "hum" again, which was the extent of his conversa-
tion on every occasion except that of a specially good din-
ner, when he added "ho."
And then, I suppose it was about eleven o'clock, there
was a stir and a movement all down the grand staircase.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 23
Except that the band in the ballroom did not burst into
the strains of the National Anthem, it was exactly like the
arrival of royalty. Coming up the staircase was a thick-
set man of medium height with white hair, a brown face,
and good features, but of such immobility that they might
have been carved in sandstone. By his side, very simply
dressed, and wearing no ornament but one rope of great
pearls, came Juanita Morse.
If I live for a thousand years I shall never forget that
first vision of her. I have seen all the beauties of London,
Paris and Rome, danced with many of them, spoken at
least to the majority, but never before or since have I seen
such luminous and compelling loveliness. It is almost im-
possible for me to describe her, a presumption indeed, when
so many abler pens than mine have hymned her praises.
The poets of two Continents have lain their garlands of
song at her little feet. She has been the theme of innu-
merable articles in the Press, the heroine of a dozen novels.
And yet I must give some impression of her, I suppose.
She was slender and tall, though not too tall. Her hair,
which must have fallen to her feet and enveloped her like
a cloud of night, was dead black. But it was not the
coarse, lifeless black of so many women of the Latin race.
It was as fine as spun silk, gleaming, vital and full of
electricity — a live thing of itself, so it seemed to me. Her
father's eyes were unpolished jet, but hers were of a deep
blue-black, large, lustrous, and of unfathomable depth.
They were never the same for two moments together and
the light within them was forever new. But what's the
24 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
good of a catalogue — after all, it expresses very little.
There was not a feature of her face, not a line of her form
that was not perfect, and her smile was the last real en-
chantment left in the modern world. . . .
In two minutes, I, I — Tom Kirby, was walking towards
the ballroom with her hand upon my arm. How all the
women stared, nodded and whispered! how all the men
hated me! I caught sight of Pat and Arthur, and, lo!
their faces were as those who lie in wait, who grin like
dogs and run about the city — as I told them some hours
Thank heavens that all the vulgar modern dances were
not only perishing of their own inanity at that time, but
had never been allowed in Brentford House. The best band
in town had begun a delightful waltz, and we slipped into
it together as if passing through curtains into dreamland.
I don't remember that we said very much to each other
— certainly I was not going to ask her how she liked Lon-
don and so forth. She did not seem the sort of girl to
appreciate the farthing change of talk.
But, somehow or other, we conversed with our eyes.
I was as certain of this as of the fact that I was dancing
with her, and, long after, in a situation and moment of
the most deadly peril, she confessed it to me.
Towards the end of the dance, when the flutes and vic^
lins glided into the last movement, I said this — "Miss
Morse, I know that I am doing the most dreadful thing.
All London wants to dance with you to-night, and I have
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 25
had the great privilege of being the very j&rst. But could
you, do you think you possibly could, give me just one
more dance later on in the evening?"
"Of course I will, Sir Thomas," she said, and her voice
was as clear as an evening bell. "I think you dance beau-
We circled round the room for the last time and then
I resigned her to Lady Brentford, who was looking after
the girl, with an eloquent look of thanlcs. Immediately
she became swallowed up by a regiment of black coats, and
I saw her no more for a time.
I am extremely fond of dancing, but I sought out no
other damsel now, but went to a buffet and drank a long
glass of iced hock-cup — as if that was going to quench the
fever within! Then I found my way to a lonely spot in
one of the conservatories and sat thinking hard. I will say
nothing as to the nature of my reverie — it may very easily
be guessed. But from time to time I concentrated all my
powers in living over again the divine moments of that
dance. I was finally, irrevocably, passionately in love. It
seems the maddest thing to say for a hard-headed, level-
minded man of the world such as I was. I suppose I
had known her for just about quarter of an hour, and yet
I knew that there would never be any other woman for
me and that when my days were at an end her name would
be the only one upon my lips.
A little later on in the evening, before my second and
final dance with his daughter, I had the opportunity of
26 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
a talk with Mr. Morse himself. I say at once, and I am
not letting myself be colored by what happened afterwards
and the intimate relations into which I was thrown with
him, I say at once that I found him charming. There
was an immense force and power about him, but this was
not obtruded upon one, as I have known it to be in the
case of other extremely wealthy and successful men, both
English and American. This super-millionaire had all the
graces of speech and courtesy of manner of the Spanish
great gentleman. And curiously enough, he took to me. I
was quite certain of that. Whether he wanted to use me
in any way — and nine-tenths of the people I met generally
did — I could not have said. At any rate I determined that
if he did I was very much at his disposal.
We watched Miss Morse dancing with old Pat, who, for
all his sixteen stone, was as light as a cat on his feet.
"Do you know who that is dancing with Juanita?" Morse
"Oh, yes. Captain Moore, Patrick Moore, of the Irish
Guards. He is one of my most intimate friends and one
of the best fellows in the world."
Then Morse said a curious thing, which I could not
fathom just then. He said it half to me and half to
himself in a curiously, thoughtful way.
" — A fine fellow to have with one in an emergency."
Well, of course, I didn't like to tell him that dear old
Pat, while he had common sense enough to come indoors
while it rained, had no mind — in the real sense of that word
— whatever. It did not occur to me for a moment that
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 27
Gideon Morse might have been speaking simply of Pat's
Pat's face was marvelous to look upon. It was one
great, glowing mass of happiness. He did not take the
least trouble to disguise his ecstasy, and if ever a man
showed he was in paradise, Pat Moore did then. It was
different when Juanita danced with Arthur. His hand-
some, clever face was not in repose for a moment. It was
sharpened by eagerness, and he talked incessantly, provok-
ing answering smiles and flashes from the girl's wonderful
eyes. My heart sank. I knew how Arthur Winstanley
could talk when he chose — as all England was to learn
two or three years later when he entered the House of
"And that man?" — the low, resonant voice of Mr. Morse
was again in my ears, for I had been neglecting my duties
to all the girls I knew, most dreadfully, and remained with
him for the space of three dances.
"Oh, that's another friend of mine, Lord Arthur Win-
stanley. He is a son of the house, the second son. Charles,
the heir, is with his regiment in India."
Mr. Morse thanked me and soon afterwards two very
great people indeed came up, and I melted away. I went
to my seat in the conservatory again. I did not care how
rude it was, how I was betraying Lady Brentford's hos-
pitality — being known as a dancing man and expected to
dance — but I was determined not to touch any other girl
that night until Juanita Morse and I had danced again
28 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
It came and passed. Afterwards I slipped downstairs,
got my hat and overcoat and left the house, without, I
think, being observed by any one.
The night air was fresh and sweet and I determined to
walk before I reached home, for my mind was in a whirl
of sensation. I turned into the great, dark canon of Vic-
toria Street, which was almost empty, and heard my foot-
steps echoing up the cliff-like sides of the houses. I caught
a glimpse of the moon silvering the Campanile of West-
minster Cathedral, and when I reached the Abbey, it and
the Houses of Parliament were washed in soft and bril-
liant light. And yet, somehow, I could not think. I could
not survey, with my usual cool detachment, the situation
which had suddenly risen in my life. I remember that
the predominant feeling was a wish that I had never gone
to Lady Brentford's, that I had never seen or spoken to
Juanita Morse. What was the use after all? She was as
much above my hopes as a Princess of the Royal House,
and yet I knew that without her I should never be really
It was in a sort of desperation that I hurried up Par-
liament Street and through Trafalgar Square, feeling that
I was a fool and mad, wanting to hide my shame in
my own quiet rooms, where at any rate I should be
I opened the door with my Yale key and ran lightly
up the stairs to the flat on the first floor which I occupied.
As I went into the loimge hall and took off my overcoat,
Preston, whom I had not told to wait up for me, came
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 29
from the passage leading to the servants' quarters carrying
"I shan't want any supper, thank you, Preston," I said
"Thank you, sir, very good sir," he replied, "but his
lordship and Captain Moore are here and have just asked
My first emotion was one of unutterable surprise, and
then I scowled and felt inclined to swear. What on earth
were those two doing here at this time of night, just when
I would have given almost anything to be left alone?
I hesitated for a moment and then walked into the
Pat was seated in a lounge chair smoking a cigar.
Arthur was pacing up and down the carpet. Neither of
them appeared to have been talking, and, as I came in,
they looked at me curiously, and I saw that their faces
in some subtle way were changed.
They were my best friends, for years we had been ac-
customed to treat each other's quarters and possessions
as if they were our own, and yet now I felt as if they
were intruding strangers, though I tried hard to be genial.
"Hallo," I said in a voice that cracked upon the word,
"didn't expect to see you again. Anything special?"
Preston was putting his tray of sandwiches and dev-
iled biscuits on the table, so we could not say much, but
directly he had left the room old Pat got up from his chair.
He held out his hand, pointing at me with a trembling fin-
ger. His face was purple.
30 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"You, you danced twice with her," he said.
So that was it! I grew ice-cold in a moment.
"I won't pretend to misunderstand to what you refer,"
I said, "but what the devil is that to you?"
"Pat, don't be a fool!" Arthur whipped out, though
the look he gave me, which he tried to disguise, was not a
"Fool is hardly the word," I said. "Kindly explain
yourself, Moore, and forget that you are my guest if you
like — I don't mind."
The huge man trembled. Then he turned away with a
sort of snarl, snatched his handkerchief from his cuff and
mopped his face.
I sat down and lit a cigarette.
"Can you explain this, Arthur?" I asked.
He sat down too, and began to tap with his shoe upon
"Oh, I don't know," he said sullenly. "You were the
only man in the room, Kirby, to whom she gave more than
"That's as may be. I suppose you don't propose to
expostulate with the lady herself? And, by the way, I
always thought that it wasn't exactly form to discuss these
things in the way you appear to have been doing."
That got Arthur on the mark. His face grew very white
and he sat perfectly still.
Then Pat heaved himself round.
"She's not for you, at any rate," he said. "They will
marry her to a duke or one of the Princes."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 31
Suddenly the humor of all this struck me forcibly and
I lay back in my chair and burst into a peal of laughter.
"That's quite likely," I said, "though I don't thinlc,
what I have seen of Mr. Morse, that he is likely to have
ambitions that way, and I am quite certain that IMiss
Morse will marry the man she wants to marry and no one
else, whether he is a thoroughbred or hairy at the heels.
I think all this talk on your part — remember you began
it, Pat — is perfectly disgraceful, to say nothing of its utter
childishness. As for your saying that a young lady whom
I have met for the first time to-night and danced with
twice, is not for me, it's a damnable piece of impertinence
that you should dare to insinuate that I look upon her in
the way you suggest."
I jumped up from my seat and knew that I was domi-
nating them all right.
"Supposing what you say is true, I admit that my chance
isn't worth two penn'orth o' cold gin, though it's every
bit as good, and probably better, than yours, all things con-
sidered. You are certainly a fine figure of a man."
I was furious, mad, keen to provoke him to an outburst.
The calculated insult was patent enough.
I thought he was about to go for me, and I stood ready,
when "What about me?" came in a dry crackling voice from
"Oh, I should put you and me about level," I said, with
the courtesy title as a little extra weight. It is a pity you
should be the second son."
"Damn you, Kirby!" he burst out, blazing with anger.
32 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I lifted up my hand and looked at both of them.
"I came in here," I said, "to my own house and find my
two best friends, that I thought, waiting for me. A few
hours ago I should have thought such a scene as this utterly
impossible. I will ask you both to remember that it has
not been provoked by me in any way, and that directly
I came in you turned on me in the most atrocious and ill-
bred way. Of your idea of the value of friendship I say
nothing at all — it is obvious I must say nothing about that.
Now you have forced the pace I will say this. To marry
that yoimg lady — I don't like to speak her name even — is
about as difficult as to dive in a cork jacket or keep a smelt
in a net. But I mean to try. I mean to use every ounce
of weight I've got. I shall almost certainly fail, but now
"Since you have said that," Pat broke in, "handicaps
be damned! I'm a starter for the same stakes, and it's
hell for leather I'll ride, and it's meself that says it, Tom."
Arthur Winstanley spoke last.
"I'm a fellow of a good many ambitions," he said quietly,
"though I've never bothered you chaps with them. Now
they are all consolidated into one."
Then we all stood and looked at each other, the cards
on the table, and in the faces of the other two at least
there was uneasiness and shame.
Just at that moment a fuimy thing happened. Preston
had brought in an ice pail full of bottles of soda water.
The heat of the night, or something, caused one of the
corks to break its confining wire and go off with a star-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 33
tling report, while a fountain of foam drenched the sand-
"Me kingdom for a drink!" said Pat. "Oh, the sweet,
blessed, gurgling sound!" and striding to the table he mixed
a gargantuan peg.
Arthur and I met behind Pat's back and he held out
his hand to me, biting his lower lip.
"We've behaved abominably, old soul," he said.
The big guardsman turned round and raised his glass
"Here's to the sweetest and most lovely lady in the
world, bedad!" he shouted, accentuating his Irish brogue.
"May the best man win her, fair fight, and no favors, and
may the Queen of Heaven and all the saints watch over the
little darlint and guide her choice aright!"
So all our midnight madness passed like a fleeting cloud.
An extraordinary accession of high spirits came to us as
we pledged the dark-haired maiden from Brazil. And it
was Pat, dear old Pat, who welded us together in a league
of chivalry against which nothing was ever to prevail.
"Tom," he said, "Arthur — we are all like brothers, we
always have been. Let there be no change in that, now
or ever. I have something to propose."
"Go on, Pat," said Arthur.
"Sure then, since we all love the same lady, that ought
to bind us more together than anything else has ever done.
But since we cannot all marry her, let us agree, in the first
place, that no outsider ever shall."
"Hurrah!" said Arthur — ^I could see that he was fear-
34 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
fully excited — throwing his glass into the fireplace with
"I am with you, Pat!" I cried. "It's to be one of us
three, and we are in league against all the other men in
London. And now the question is — "
"Hear my plan. This very night we'll draw lots as to
which of us shall have the first chance. The man who
wins shall have the entire support of the other two in every
possible way. If she accepts him, then the fates have
spoken. If she doesn't, then the next man in the draw
shall have his chance, and the rejected suitor and the poor
third man shall help him to the utmost of their ability. Is
He stopped and looked down at us from his great height
with a smiling and anxious face.
Dear old Pat, I shall always love to think that the pro-
posal came from him, straight, clean and true, as he always
"So be it," Arthur echoed solemnly. "The league shall
begin this very night. Do either of you chaps know any
Spanish, by the way?"
We shook our heads.
"Well, I do," he continued, "and we'll form ourselves
into a Santa Hermandad — 'The Holy Brotherhood' — it was
the name of an old Spanish Society of chivalry ever so
many years ago."
"Santa Hermandad!" Pat shouted, "and now to shake
hands on it. I think we'll not be needing to take an oath."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 35
Our three hands were clasped together in an instant and
we knew that, come what might, each would be true to that
"And now," I said, "to draw lots as to who shall be
the first to try his chance. How shall we settle it?"
"There's no fairer way," said Arthur, "than the throw
of a die. Have you any poker dice, Tom?"
"Yes, I have a couple of sets somewhere."
"Very well then, we'll take a single one and the first man
that throws Queen is the winner."
I found the dice and the leather cup and dropped a
single one into it. Poker dice, for the benefit of the unini-
tiate, have the Queen on one side in blue, like the Queen
in a pack of cards, the King in red and the Knave in black.
On two other faces, the nine and the ten.
"Who will throw first?" said Pat.
"You throw," I said.
There was a rattle, and nine fell upon the table. I
nodded to Arthur, who picked up the little ivory square,
waved the cup in the air, and threw — an ace.
My turn came. I threw an ace also, and Arthur and I
looked at Pat with sinking hearts.
He threw a King. I don't want another five minutes
like that again. We threw and threw and threw and never
once did the Queen turn up. At last Arthur said:
"Look here, you fellows, I can't stand this much longer,
it's playing the devil with my nerves. Let's have one more
throw and if Her Majesty doesn't turn up, let's decide it
36 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
by values. Ace, highest, King, Queen and so on. Tom,
I took up the box, rattled the cube within it for a long
time and then dropped it flat upon the table.
I had thrown Queen.
About a fortnight after the memorable scene in my fiat
when the league came into being, I was sitting in my edi-
torial room at the offices of the Evening Special.
I had met Juanita once at a large dinner party and
exchanged half a dozen words with her — that was all. My
head was full of plans, I was trying to map out a social
campaign that would give me the opportunity I longed for,
but as yet everything was tentative and incomplete. The
exciting business of journalism, the keeping of one's thumb
upon the public pulse, the directing of public thought into
this or that channel, was most welcome at a time like this,
and I threw myself into it with avidity.
I had just returned from lunch, and the first editions of
the paper were successfully afloat, when Williams, my acting
editor, and Miss Dewsbury, my private secretary, came into
''Things are very quiet indeed," said Williams.
"But the circulation is all right?"
"Never better. Still, I am thinking of our reputation.
I knew what he meant. We had never allowed the Eve-
ning Special — ^highly successful as it was — to go on in a
jog-trot fashion. We had a tremendous reputation for
great "stunts," genuine, exclusive pieces of news, and now
for weeks nothing particular had come our way.
38 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"That's all very well, Williams, but we cannot make
bricks without straw, and if everything is as stagnant as
a duck pond, that's not our fault."
Miss Dewsbury broke in. She was a little woman of
thirty with a large head, fair hair drawn tightly from a
rather prominent brow, and wore tortoise-shell spectacles.
She looked as if her clothes had been flung at her and had
stuck, but for all that Julia Dewsbury was the best pri-
vate secretary in London, true as steel, with an inordinate
capacity for work and an immense love for the paper. I
think she liked me a little too, and she was well worth the
four hundred a year I paid her.
"I," said Miss Dewsbury, "live at Richmond."
Both Williams and I cocked our ears. Julia never wasted
words, but she liked to tell her story her own way, and
it was best to let her do so.
"Ah!" said Williams appreciatively.
"And I believe," she went on, "that one of the biggest
newspaper stories, ever, is going to come from Richmond.
It is something that will go round the world, if I am not
very much mistaken, and we've got to have it first. Sir
Williams gave a low whistle, and I strained at the leash,
so to speak.
"I refer," Miss Dewsbury went on, "to the great wireless
erections on Richmond Hill."
For a moment I felt disappointed. I didn't see how
interest could be revived in that matter and I said so.
"Nearly a year ago," I remarked, "every paper in Eng-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 39
land Avas booming with it. We did our share, I'm sure.
No one could have protested more vigorously, and it was
the Special that got all those questions asked in Parliament.
But surely. Miss Dewsbury, it's dead as mutton now. It's
an accepted fact and the public have got used to it."
"There's nothing," said Williams, "more impossible than
to reanimate a dead bit of news. It's been tried over and
over again and it's never been a real success."
Miss Dewsbury smiled, the smile that means "When
you poor dear, silly men have done talking, then you shall
hear something." I saw that smile and took courage again,
"Suppose," said Miss Dewsbury, "that we just look up
the facts as a preliminary to what I have to say."
She went to a side table on which was a dial with little
ivory tablets, each bearing a name — Sub-editor's room, Com-
posing room, Mr. Williams, Library, etc., and she pulled a
little handle over the last disk, immediately speaking into
a telephone receiver above.
"Facts relating to great wireless installment on Richmond
A bell whirred and she came back to the table where
we were sitting. In twenty seconds — so perfect was our
organization at the Special office — a youth entered with a
portfolio containing a number of Press cuttings, photo-
Miss Dewsbury opened it.
"A year ago," she said, "the real estate market was
greatly interested to learn that Flight, Jones & Rutley, the
well-known agents, had secured several acres of property
40 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
on the top of Richmond Hill. The buyer's name was not
discovered, but an enormously wealthy syndicate was sug-
gested. At that time, opportunely chosen, many leases had
fallen in. Others that had some time still to run were
bought at a greatly enhanced value, while several portions
of freehold property were also purchased at ten times their
worth. Houses immediately began to be demolished, im-
mense compensation was paid to those who hung out and
refused to quit the newly purchased area. Pressure, it
is hinted, of a somewhat imwarrantable kind, was also
applied. The sum involved was enormous, but every claim
was cheerfully settled, with the result that this area of
several acres was entirely denuded of buildings and sur-
rounded by a high wall, in an incredibly short space of
"The most beautiful view in England spoiled forever!"
said Williams with a sigh.
Miss Dewsbury turned over a few leaves.
"Of course you will both remember the agitation that
went on, the opposition of the local and County Councils,
the rage of Societies for preserving the ancient monuments
and historic places of interest, etc., etc. The newspapers, in-
cluding ours, took up the matter vigorously. Then, with
a curious unanimity, all opposition began to die away. It
is quite certain that huge sums were spent in buying over
the objectors, though no actual proof was ever discovered.
The matter was altogether too delicate a thing and was
far too skillfully worked.
"Then the unknown purchaser began to build the three
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 41
great towers now approaching completion. An army of
workmen was gathered together in a new industrial city
between Brentford and Hounslow. Fleets of ships bearing
steel girders and so forth arrived from America, together
with a hundred highly trained engineers, all of them
Americans. It was given out that the most powerful wire-
less station in the whole world was to be constructed. Again
much opposition, appeals to the Government, questions to
the Board of Trade and so forth. I remember that very
much the same sort of thing happened in Paris, when the
Eiffel Tower was first constructed. England's agitation was
opposed by the scientific bodies of the day, and there were
other forces behind which brought pressure to bear on the
Government. That also is certain, though nothing has actu-
ally transpired as yet in this regard. Now we've three
monstrous towers, each of nearly two thousand feet in height
— twice the height of the Eiffel — dominating London.
Every day almost we, who live in Richmond and the sur-
rounding towns, see these monsters shooting up higher
into the air. Often half of them is veiled by clouds. The
most tremendous engineering feat in the history of the world
is nearly accomplished."
Now all this was quite familiar to me and in common
with many Londoners I had begun to take a sort of la2y
pride in the gaunt latticework of steel which seemed climb-
ing to heaven itself. All the same I saw no great jour-
nalistic opportunity and I said so.
"Let us consider a little," continued the imperturbable
Julia. "These towers are not Government owned. They
42 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
are the property of some private syndicate. The secret
has been kept with extraordinary success. All the Marconi
shareholders of the City, all the big financial corporations,
even foreign Governments, have been trying to get at the
root of the matter. Each and all have utterly failed. Yet
our own Government knows, and sooner or later a pro-
nouncement will have to be made. If we could anticipate
this, then the interest of the public would rise to fever
heat again, and we should have a scoop of the first magni-
I saw that immediately, and so did Williams, but as it
was obvious Miss Dewsbury hadn't quite finished we just
nodded and let her go on.
"Now I have reason for thinking," she said, "and I am
not speaking lightly. Sir Thomas, that there's something
behind this affair of a totally unexpected and startling na-
ture. Some day, no doubt, the towers will be used for
scientific purposes, but there's a deep mystery surrounding
everything, and one very different from what we might
suppose. I think we can penetrate it."
"Splendid! " I cried, for I knew very well that Julia Dews-
bury would not say as much as she had unless there was
certainty behind her words. "And how do you propose to
As I was looking at her she flushed, and I nearly fell off
my chair. It had never occurred to me that Miss Dews-
bury could blush, in fact, that she was human at all, I am
afraid, and I wondered what on earth was the matter.
"May I make a little personal explanation, Sir Thomas?"
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 43
she said. "I live in a quiet street at the foot of Richmond
Hill, where I occupy a large and comfortable bed-sitting
room in 'Balmoral/ Number 102, Acacia Road. The house
is kept by an excellent woman, who only takes in one other
lodger. You pay me a very handsome salary, Sir Thomas,
and! might be expected to live in a more commodious way
— a flat in Kensington or something like that. But I have
other claims upon me. There are two young sisters and a
brother to be educated, and I am their sole support. That's
why I live in a small lodging house at Richmond, which,
again, is the reason that I have recently come into contact
with some one who may be of inestimable value to the
She blushed again, upon my soul she did, and I heard
Williams gasp in astonishment. I kicked him, under the
"The other bed-sitting room at 'Balmoral' has recently
been occupied by a young man, perhaps I should rather say
a youth, IVIr. William Rolston. He seemed very lonely and
quite poor, and on discussing him with Mrs. O'Hagan, my
landlady, she informed me that she more than suspected
that he had at times to economize grievously in the matter
of food. I myself used to hear the click of a typewriter
across the passage, sometim.es continuing till late at night,
and from the frequency with which bulky envelopes arrived
for him by post, it vms easy to deduce that he was an un-
successful author or journalist. This naturally excited my
interest. Mrs. O'Hagan has no idea that I am connected
with the Evening Special, she thinks I am typist in a city
44 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
firm of hardware merchants. And when I made my ac-
quaintance with Mr. Rolston, as I did some time ago owing
to his back number Remington going wrong, I told him
nothing but that I myself was a typist and stenographer.
I was enabled to put his machine right and we became
friends. Am I boring you, Sir Thomas, and Mr. Williams?"
she said suddenly, with a quick look at both of us.
"On the contrary," I replied, "you are paying us a great
compliment, Miss Dewsbury, in allowing us to know some-
thing of your own private affairs in order that you may
explain how you propose to do the paper a signal service."
I can swear that the little woman's eyes grew bright
behind her tortoise-shell spectacles and she went on with
renewed confidence of manner.
"I have been associated with joiu-nalism for eight years
now," she said. "During that time innumerable journalists
have passed before me. In my own way I have studied
them all, and I believe I can detect the real journalist
almost as well as Mr. Williams can."
"A good deal better, I should think," said the acting
editor, "considering the people I have trusted and the mis-
takes I have sometimes made."
"At any rate, I can say, with my whole heart, that Bill
— I mean INIr. Rolston — though he is only twenty-one and
has never had a chance in his life yet, has the makings in
him of the most successful journalist of the day. He will
rise to the very top of the tree. But as we all know, though
great merit will come to the surface in time, chance is a
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 45
great element in retarding or accelerating the process. I
think that Mr. Rolston's chance has come now."
"You mean?" I asked.
"That this boy, utterly unknown, with hardly a left
foot in Fleet Street as yet, has had the acumen to see,
right to his hand, one of the greatest journalistic sensations
of modern times. I refer to the three towers on Richmond
Hill. We have been for evening strolls together and the
boy has poured out his whole heart to me — as he might
to a mother or any older woman" — and here poor Julia
blushed again, and I thought I saw her lips quiver for a
"The day before yesterday he said to me: 'Miss Dews-
bury, of course you don't understand anything about jour-
nalism, but I'm on the track of the very biggest thing you
could possibly imagine, I have been lying low and saying
nothing. I'm hot on the scent.' He hinted at what it was,
without giving me very many details, though these were
quite sufficient to show me that he was making no idle
boast. Then he said: 'But what use is it? If I went with
what I've got already to any of the papers, I might or
might not get to see some unimaginative news-editor who'd
squash me into a cocked hat in five minutes. That's the
worst of being absolutely unknown and without any pull.
If only I could get to see a real editor of one of the big
papers, a man who would give me a patient hearing, a man
with imagination, I would engage to convince him in ten
minutes and my fortune would be made.' "
46 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
She stopped, leant back in her chair and looked at me
''Good heavens!" I cried. "Have him up at once. I
am quite certain that you could never have been deceived,
Miss Dewsbury. You have not been with me for four
years without my knowing how valuable your intuition is.
Send him to me at once."
Miss Dewsbury gave a dry, gratified chuckle.
"I may have stretched things a little far in having too
much confidence in my position here," she said, "but I was
determined to gamble on it, and I've won. This morning,
before I left for the office, I gave Mrs. O'Hagan a little
note for Bill — he has an unfortunate habit of lying in bed
in the morning. The note told him that by an odd coinci-
dence, I thought I might put him in the way of writing an
article for the Evening Special and that he was to be in the
cafe at the corner by three o'clock, precisely."
She looked at her wrist-watch.
"It's five minutes to now. I will send for him at once."
"Rolston, did you say the name was, Miss Dewsbury?"
"Yes, — Rolston. But the messenger can't mistake him.
He's about five feet two high, very slim, with an innocent,
baby face, and very dark red hair. Oh, and his ears stick
out at the sides of his head almost at right angles. Please
say nothing about my part in the matter, as yet at any
rate," Miss Dewsbury asked as she went away, and some
minutes afterwards a page boy ushered in one of the most
curious little figures I have ever seen.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 47
Mr, Rolston was short, slim and well proportioned. He
looked active as a monkey and tough as whipcord. He was
rather shabbily dressed in an old blue suit. His face was
childish only in contour and complexion, and for the rest
he could have sat as a model for Puck to any painter.
There was something impish and merry in his rather slant-
ing eyes, and his button of a mouth was capable of some
very surprising contortions. His round-shaped ears, like
the ears of a mouse, stood out on each side of his head and
completed the elfish, sprite-like impression.
"Sit down, Mr. Rolston," I said, pointing to a chair on
the other side of the table.
The little man bowed very low and slid into the chair.
I had an odd impression that he would shortly produce
a nut and begin to crack it with his teeth. I could see that
he was in a whirl of amazement and at the same time hor-
ribly nervous, and I tried to put him at his ease.
"I understand," I said, "that you are a journalist, Mr.
"Yes, Sir Thomas," he replied, in a cultivated voice,
though with a curious guttural note in it, and I marked
that he knew my name.
"I also understand — never mind how — that for some time
past you have been wishing to see the editor of a large
London daily, to penetrate right to the fountain head, so
to speak. Well, here you are, I am the editor of the Eve-
ning Special. What have you to propose to me?"
I passed a box of cigarettes over the table towards him,
but he shook his head.
48 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"It's about the three great towers now approaching com-
pletion at Richmond."
"You have some special information?"
"Some very startling information, indeed, Sir Thomas.
An idea came to me some months ago. I thought it worth
while testing, and it's proved trumps."
"If you have anything in the nature of a scoop, Mr.
Rolston, I need hardly say that it will be very well worth
your while. If, when I have heard what you have to say,
I cannot use your information, I will give you my per-
sonal word that all you tell me shall be kept an entire
"That's good enough for any one," he answered with a
sudden grin. "Well, sir, these towers will eventually lapse
to the British Government as a gift from the private indi-
vidual who has erected them, but they will remain his
property and be used for his own purposes until his death.
And these purposes are not wireless telegraphy, or even
scientific in any shape or form. Indeed, wireless telegraphy
is expressly forbidden."
Well, at that I sat upright in my chair. Here was news
indeed — if it were true.
"That's big stuff," I replied at once, "if you can sub-
"I think you will believe me when I have finished," he
replied quietly. "I have risked my life more than once
to get at the facts. My father, Sir Thomas, was a mission-
ary in China. I was brought up to speak the Chinese Ian-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 49
guage as well as English. I am one of the very few Euro-
peans who do so fluently. Moreover, I kept it up till I was
sixteen and came to England, and I have never forgotten it.
You have heard, I suppose, that there's a gang of Chinese
coolies at work on the towers, and some of the Trade Unions
have been making themselves nasty about it, and the
"Yes, there was some agitation."
"In addition to these coolies, there are many Chinese
officials of a much higher class, people who will remain
when the towers are finished, as they will be in an incred-
ibly short space of time, for the work is being carried on
both by day and night. Speed, speed, speed! is the order,
and nothing in the world is allowed to stand in the way
"You interest me very much. Please continue."
"Speaking Chinese as I do, being perfectly familiar with
Chinese dress and customs, it has not been difficult for me
to disguise myself — blacken my hair, assume a yellow com-
plexion and so forth.
"By this means I have penetrated to the very heart of
the workings at night, and," he blushed faintly, "I have
listened to conversations of an extraordinary character, lying
on the roof of a certain office building for hours. Details
you shall have, and in plenty, but here is the sum of my
discoveries. There is no syndicate. There never was. The
work, upon which millions have been spent, has been, from
the very first, designed and originated by one individual,
50 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
with the specialized help of the most famous engineers of
"And his motive?" I asked, and I don't mind saying that
I was almost trembling with excitement.
"The dream of a genius, or the whim of a madman,"
Rolston answered in a grave voice. "The world will call it
one or the other without a doubt. At any rate it's the
product of a colossal imagination. For myself, I am dead
certain that there's some deeper and stranger motive be-
neath it all, but that can rest for the present. Sir Thomas,
between those three great towers, two thousand feet up in
the air, will very shortly come into being a fantastic pleas-
ure city like a dream of the Arabian Nights! It will be
unique in the history of the world, and already the prepa-
rations are so far advanced that it will be completed with
"A pleasure city!" I gasped. "A Pleasure City in the
"On two stages right up at the very summit, suspended
by a system of cantilevers of the most intricate modern con-
struction and of toughened steel. I understand that a tri-
angle measuring in all four acres will support a marvelous
series of palaces, a Lhassa of the air!"
"Why Lhassa, Mr. Rolston?"
"Because," he replied, "it's to be a Forbidden City, which
no one will be allowed to penetrate or see. It is a mar-
velous conception only possible to enormous wealth and the
vision of a superman."
I left my chair and began pacing up and down the room
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 51
as the freakish grandeur of the conception burst fully upon
me. Towering over London, dwarfing Saint Paul's to a
child's toy, a City in the Clouds!
I stopped suddenly, wheeled round and shouted: "But
who, Mr. Rolston, is the madman, genius or superman who
has imagined this and actually carried it out in sober
"That's the greatest secret of all," he said, looking round
the room as if frightened.
Then he slid from his chair and was at my side in a
"It's a Mr. Gideon Mendoza Morse from Brazil," he
Rolston's revelation, utterly unexpected, came to me with
the suddenness of a blow over the heart. For a few sec-
onds I was incapable of consecutive thought, though I don't
think my face showed anything of it.
The lad was watching me anxiously and I had to do
something with him at once. Fortunately, I thought of
the obvious thing.
"Leave me now, Mr, Rolston," I said. "Go to the room
down the passage marked 'Mr. Williams' on the door, and
ask him to put you into a room by yourself. Then please,
as quickly as possible, write me out a newspaper 'story'
setting out fully all the facts you have told me. Remember
that you've got to interest the public in the very first para-
graph in what is undoubtedly a most sensational piece of
"How many words, sir?" he asked me — I liked that, it
"A thousand. And when you've done that bring it
straight in to me."
He was out of the room in a minute and I sat down to
In the first place I didn't doubt his story for a moment,
there was something transparently honest about the boy,
and, unless I was very much mistaken, there was great
ability in him also. When there was time for it I expected
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 53
I should hear a breathless story of his adventures in the
search of this stuff. He had hinted that his life had been
in danger. ... I began to think — ^hard. Assuming that
was true, that Morse had been seized with this extraor-
dinary whim, how did I stand in the matter? At a first
view it appeared that I was rather badly snookered. Morse,
always assuming young Rolston was correct, had spent a
huge fortune in keeping his secret. Moreover, the Govern-
ment was in it with him. It would hardly be the way to
recommend myself to Juanita's father — whose good opinion
I desired to gain more than that of any other person in
the world, save one — by giving his cherished secret to the
world in order to increase the prestige and circulation of
the Evening Special.
If I did publish it, it was odds on that I never saw
Juanita again. One thing occurred to me with relief — it
wasn't a case in which I had to publish, in the public inter-
est. By suppressing news I was not failing my duty as an
editor, only losing a big scoop, though that was hard enough.
What was to be done? As I asked myself that question
I confess that for a brief moment — thank Heaven it did not
last long — it occurred to me that I was now in a position
to put considerable pressure upon the millionaire. I could
hold out inducements . . .
Fortunately, I crushed all such ugly thoughts without
much effort, and then the real solution came. When I
had questioned Rolston a little more and was bedrock
certain that he was right, I would see Morse at once and
tell him all I had learnt without reserve. I would present
54 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
the thing to him as one in which I claimed no personal inter-
est, and my attitude would be that I felt he ought to be
warned. I would engage to publish nothing without his
wish, but he must look to it — if he wished to preserve his
secret — that other people were not upon the same track.
That could do me no harm whatever. It was the straight
thing to do, and at the same time it would certainly help
me with him. I thought, and think still, that this was a
fair advantage to take. It is only a fool who throws away
a legitimate weapon in love or war.
I rang up the Ritz Hotel and asked for Mr. Morse.
There was some little delay at the Hotel Bureau, and then
I was switched on to the telephone of the private apart-
"Who's that?" asked a cold, characterless voice.
"Sir Thomas Kirby of the Evening Special speaking.
Who are you?"
"Secretary to Mr. Morse" — now the voice was a little
"Is Mr. Morse at home?"
"I can see that he gets a message very shortly, Sir
Thomas, if the matter is of importance."
"It is of very considerable importance or I shouldn't
have troubled to ring Mr. Morse up, especially as I shall
be meeting him in a day or two at a social engagement."
"Wait a moment, please."
I knew by this that I had struck lucky and that Morse
was in the hotel, and within a minute I heard his calm,
resonant voice in my ear.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 55
"Good afternoon, Kirby. My secretary says you wanted
to speak to me."
"Thank you, I am most anxious to have a conversation."
"Well, shall we hold the wire?"
"I daren't discuss my business over the wire, Mr. Morse."
There was a short silence and then:
'Tlease forgive me, but you know how busy I am.
Could you give me the least indication of what you wish to
talk to me about?"
I had an inspiration.
"Towers," I said in a low voice.
A quiet "Ah!" came to me over the wire, and then:
"I think I understand. Sir Thomas, you wish — ?"
"To tell you something that I feel sure you ought to know,
in your own interests."
"Pass, Friend!" was the reply, followed by a little
chuckle in which I thought — I might have been mistaken —
I detected a note of relief.
"When shall we meet?" I asked.
"Look here, Kirby," was the reply, "can you come here
at eleven to-night? I'll give orders that you are to be
taken up to my rooms at once. I can't guarantee that I
shall be in at the moment. I also have something of con-
siderable importance on hand, but if you will wait — I'm
afraid I'm asking a great deal — I'll be certain to be with
you sooner or later. My daughter may be at home and,
if she is, no doubt she'll give you a cup of coffee or some-
thing while you wait. Do you think you can manage this?"
"I shall be delighted," I answered, trying to control my
56 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
voice, and I hardly heard the quiet "Good-by" that con-
cluded our conversation.
Well, I had done better for myself than I had hoped,
and, so vain are all of us, I felt a kind of satisfaction in
having ''played the game" and at the same time won the
trick. I did not reflect till afterwards that if Morse had
been some one else and not the father of Juanita, I should
not have hesitated for a moment to fill the Special with
I sat down again in my chair, ordered a cup of tea, drank
it with splendid visions of a tete-h-tete with Juanita that
very night, and was leaning back in my chair lost in a
rosy dream when the door opened and the odd little man
with the red hair appeared at my side, holding two or three
sheets of typewritten copy.
"The story, sir," he said.
I took it from him mechanically, it would never be pub-
lished now, in all probability, but it would at least serve
to show Morse how much I knew. I began to read.
At the end of the first paragraph I knew that the stuff
was going to be all right. At the end of the second and
third I sat up in my chair and abandoned my easy attitude.
When I had read the whole of the thousand words I knew
that I had discovered one of the best journalistic brains of
the day! The boy could not only ferret out news, but he
could write! Every word fell with the right ring and
chimed. He was terse, but vivid as an Alpine sunset. He
made one powerful word do the work of ten. He suggested
atmosphere by a semicolon, and there were fewer adjec-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 57
tives in his stuff than one would have believed possible.
There were not four other men in Fleet Street who could
have done as well. And beyond this, beyond my pleasure
at the discovery of a genius, the article had a peculiar effect
upon me. I felt that somehow or other the matter was
not going to die with my interview to-night at the Ritz
Hotel. The room in which I sat widened. There was a
glimpse of far horizons. . . .
I folded the copy carefully and placed it in my breast
"Mr. Rolston," I said, "I engage you from this moment
as a member of my regular staff. Your salary to begin with
will be ten pounds a week, and of course your expenses
that you may incur in the course of your work. Do you
accept these terms?"
Poor Bill Rolston! I mustn't give away the man who
afterwards became my most faithful friend and most dar-
ing companion in hours of frightful peril, and a series of
incredible adventures. Still, if he did burst into tears that's
nothing against him, for I didn't realize till sometime aft-
erwards that he was half starved and at the very end of his
He pulled himself together in a moment or two, took
a cup of tea and let me cross-question him. What he told
me in the next half-hour I cannot set down here. It will
appear in its proper place, but it is enough to say that in
the whole of my experience I never listened to a more mys-
terious and more enthralling recital.
I think that from that moment I realized that my fate
58 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
was to be in some way linked with the three towers on
Richmond Hill, and the sense of excitement which had been
with me all the afternoon, grew till it was almost un-
"Now, first of all," I said, when he had told me every-
thing, "you are not to breathe a word of this to any human
soul without my permission. While you have been absent
I have already been taking steps, the nature of which I
shall not tell you at present. Meanwhile, lock up everything
in your heart."
I had a flash of foresight, well justified in the event.
"I may want you at any moment," I told him, "and
therefore, with your permission, I'm going to put you up
at my flat in Piccadilly, where you will be well looked after
and have everything you want. I'll telephone through to
my man, Preston, giving him full instructions, and you had
better take a taxi and get there at once. Preston will send
a messenger to your lodgings to bring up any clothes and
so forth you may require."
He blushed rosy red, and I wondered why, for his story
had been told to me in a crisp, man-of-the-world manner
that made him seem far older than he was.
Then he shrugged his shoulders, put his hand in his
trousers pocket and pulled out — one penny.
"All I have in the world," he said, with a rueful smile.
I scribbled an order on the cashier and told him to cash
it in the office below, and, with a look of almost doglike
fidelity and gratitude, the little fellow moved towards the
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 59
Just at that moment it opened and Julia Dewsbury
Rolston's jaw dropped and his eyes almost started out
of his head in amazement, and I saw a look come into my
secretary's eyes that I should have been glad to inspire
in the eyes of one woman.
''There, there," I said, "be off with you, both of you.
Miss Dewsbury, take Mr. Rolston, now a permanent mem-
ber of the staff, into your own room and tell him some-
thing about the ways of the office."
For half an hour I walked up and down the editorial
sanctum arranging my thoughts, getting everything clear
cut, and when that was done I telephoned to Arthur Win-
stanley, asking him, if he had nothing particular on, to
dine with me.
His reply was that he would be delighted, as he had
nothing to do till eleven o'clock, but that I must dine with
him. "I have discovered a delightful little restaurant," he
said, "which isn't fashionable yet, though it soon will be.
Don't dress; and meet me at the Club at half-past seven."
My dinner with Arthur can be related very shortly, for,
while it has distinct bearing upon the story, it was only
remarkable for one incident, though, Heaven knows, that
was important enough.
I met him at our Club in Saint James' and we walked
together towards Soho.
"You are going to dine," said Arthur, "at 'L'Escargot
d'Or' — The Golden Snail. It's a new departure in Soho
6o THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
restaurants, and only a few of us know of it yet. Soon
all the world will be going there, for the cooking is mag-
"That's always the way with these Soho restaurants, they
begin wonderfully, are most beautifully select in their
patrons, and then the rush comes and everything is spoiled."
"I know, the same will happen here no doubt, though
lower Bohemia will never penetrate because the prices are
going to be kept up; and this place will always equal one
of the first-class restaurants in town. Well, how goes it?"
I knew what he meant and as we walked I told him, as
in duty bound, all there was to tell of the progress of my
"Met her once," I said, "had about two minutes' talk.
There's just a chance, I am not certain, that I may meet
her to-night, and not in a crowd — in which case you may
be sure I shall make the very most of my opportunities.
If this doesn't come off, I don't see any other chance of
really getting to know her until September, at Sir Walter
Stileman's, and I have to thank you for that invitation,
"It's a difficult house to get into," he said, "unless you
are one of the pukka shooting set, but I told old Sir
Walter that, though you weren't much good in October
and that pheasants weren't in your line, you were Ai at
driven 'birds.' "
"But I can't hit a driven partridge to save my life,
unless by a fluke!"
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 6i
"I know, Tom, I don't say that you'll be liked at all,
but you won the toss and by our bond we're bound to do
all we can to give you your opportunity. I need hardly
say that my greatest hope in life is that she'll have noth-
ing whatever to say to you. And now let's change that
subject — it's confounded thin ice however you look at it —
and enjoy our little selves. I have been on the 'phone
with Anatole, and we are going to dine to-night, my son,
The Golden Snail in a Soho side street presented no
great front to the world. There was a sign over a door,
a dingy passage to be traversed, imtil one came to another
door, opened it and found oneself in a long, lofty room
shaped like a capital L. The long arm was the one at
which you entered, the other went round a rectangle. The
place was very simply decorated in black and white.
Tables ran along each side, and the only difference between
it and a dozen other such places in the foreign quarter
of London was that the seats against the wall were not of
red plush but of dark green morocco leather. It was fairly
full, of a mixed company, but long-haired and impecunious
Bohemia was conspicuously absent.
A table had been reserved for us at the other end oppo-
site the door, so that sitting there we could see in both
We started with little tiny oysters from Belon in
Brittany — I don't suppose there was another restaurant in
London at that moment that was serving them. The soup
was asparagus cream soup of superlative excellence, and
62 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
then came a young guinea-fowl stuffed with mushrooms,
which was perfection itself,
"How on earth do you find these places, Arthur?" I
"Well," he answered, "ever since I left Oxford I've been
going about London and Paris gathering information of all
sorts. I've lived among the queerest set of people in
Europe. My father thinks I'm a waster, but he doesn't
know. My mother, angel that she is, understands me
perfectly. She knows that I've only postponed going into
politics until I have had more experience than the ordinary
young man in my position gets. I absolutely refused to
be shoved into the House directly I had come down with
my degree, the Union, and all those sort of blushing honors
thick upon me. In a year or two you will see, Tom, and
meanwhile here's the Moulin a Vent."
Anatole poured out that delightful but little known
burgundy for us himself, and it was a wine for the gods.
"A little interval," said Arthur, "in which a cigarette is
clearly indicated, and then we are to have some slices of
bear ham, stewed in champagne, which I rather think will
We sat and smoked, looking up the long room, when
the swing doors at the end opened and a man and a girl
entered. They came down towards us, obviously approach-
ing a table reserved for them in the short arm of the
restaurant, and I noticed the man at once.
For one thing he was in full evening dress, whereas the
only other diners who were in evening kit at all wore dinner
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 63
jackets and black ties. He was a tall man of about fifty
with wavy, gray hair. His face was clean shaved, and
a little full. I thought I had never seen a handsomer
man, or one who moved with a grace and ease which were
so perfectly unconscious. The girl beside him was a pretty
enough young creature with a powdered face and reddened
lips— nothing about her in the least out of the ordinary.
When he came opposite our table, his face lighted up sud-
denly. He smiled at Arthur, and opened his mouth as if
Arthur looked him straight in the face with a calm and
stony stare — I never saw a more cruel or explicit cut.
The man smiled again without the least bravado or em-
barrassment, gave an almost imperceptible bow and passed
on towards his table without any one but ourselves having
noticed what occurred. The whole affair was a question
of some five or six seconds.
He sat down with his back to us.
"Who is he?" I asked of Arthur.
He hesitated for a moment and then he gave a little
shudder of disgust. I thought, also, that I saw a shade
come upon his face.
"No one you are ever likely to meet in life, Tom," he
replied, "unless you go to see him tried for murder at the
Old Bailey some day. He is a fellow called Mark Antony
"A most distinguished looking man."
"Yes, and I should say he stands out from even his own
associates in a preeminence of evil. Tom," he went on, with
64 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
unusual gravity, "deep down in the soul of every man there's
some foul primal thing, some troglodyte that, by the mercy
of God, never awakes in most of us. But when it does in
some, and dominates them, then a man becomes a fiend,
lost, hopeless, irremediable. That man Midwinter is such
an one. You could not find his like in Europe. He walks
among his fellows with a panther in his soul; and the high
imagination, the artistic power in him makes him doubly
dangerous. I could tell you details of his career which
would make your blood run cold — if it were worth while.
"But I perceive our bear's flesh stewed in Sillery is
approaching. Let's forget this intrusion."
Well, we dined after the fashion of Sybaris, went to
the Club for an hour and smoked, and then Arthur returned
to his chambers in Jermyn Street to dress. I went back
to mine, found from Preston that little Mr. Rolston was
safely in bed and fast asleep, changed into a dinner jacket
and walked the few yards to the Ritz Hotel, my heart beat-
ing high with hope.
I was shown up at once to the floor inhabited by the
millionaire, and knew, therefore, that I was expected. The
man who conducted me knocked at a door, opened it,
and I entered. I found myself in a comfortable room
with writing tables and desks, telephone and a typewriter.
A young man of two or three and twenty was seated at one
of the tables smoking a cigarette.
He jumped up at once.
"Oh, Sir Thomas," he said, "Mr. Morse has not yet
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 65
returned, and I think it quite likely he may be some little
time. But the Senora Balmaceda and Miss Morse are in
the drawing-room and perhaps you would like to — "
''I shall be delighted," I said, cutting him short, but
who on earth was Senora Balmaceda? The chaperone, I
supposed, confoimd it!
The obliging young man led me through two or three
very gorgeously furnished rooms and at last into a large
apartment brilliantly lit from the roof, and with flowers
everywhere. At one end was a little alcove.
"I have brought Sir Thomas, Senora," he said, looking
about the room, but there was no one remotely resembling
a Senora there. Nevertheless, directly he spoke, some one
stepped out of the conservatory from behind a tropical
shrub in a green tub, and came towards us.
It was Juanita, and she was alone. The secretary with-
drew and I advanced to meet her.
"How do you do. Sir Thomas," she said in her beautiful,
bell-like voice. "Father said you might be coming and I'm
afraid he won't be in just yet. And it's so tiresome, poor
Aimtie has gone to bed with a bad headache."
"I'm very sorry, Miss Morse," I answered as we shook
hands, "I must do what I can to take her place," and then
I looked at her perfectly straight.
Yes, I dared to look into those marvelous limpid eyes
and I know she saw the hunger in mine, for she took her
hand away a little hurriedly.
"What a charming room! Is that a little conservatory
over there? It must look out over the Green Park?"
66 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"Yes, it does," she replied almost in a whisper.
"Then do let's sit there, Miss Morse."
Was I acting in a play or what on earth gave me this
sense of confidence and strength? Heaven only knows,
but I never faltered from the first moment that I entered
the room. Oh, the gods were with me that night!
We went to the alcove without a further word, and she
sat down upon a couch. I have described her once, at
Lady Brentford's ball, but at this moment I am not going
to attempt to describe her at all.
For half a minute we said nothing and then I took her
hand and pressed it to my lips.
"Juanita," I said, "there are mysterious currents and
forces in this world stronger than we are ourselves. This
is the third time that I've seen you, but no power on earth
can prevent me from telling you — "
She was looking at me with parted lips and eyes suffused
with an angelic tenderness and modesty. My voice broke
in my throat with unutterable joy. I was certain that she
And then, just as I was about to say the sealing words —
remember, I had invoked the gods — there was the sound
of a door opening sharply.
I stiffened and rose to my feet. From where we sat
we could survey the whole, rich room. Through the open
door — I must say there were several doors in the room —
came a tall man, walking backwards.
He was in full evening dress with a camellia in his button-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 67
He stepped back lightly with cat-like steps, his arms a
little curved, his fingers all extended.
I saw his face. It was convulsed with the satanic fury
of an old Japanese mask. Line for line, it was just like
that, and it was also the face of the bland and smiling man
I had seen two hours before at the restaurant of The
I felt something warm and trembling at my side,
Juanita was clinging to me and I put my arm around her
waist. Through the open door there now came another
A quiet, resonant voice cut into the tense, horrible silence.
"Quick, Mark Antony Midwinter — that's your door, quick
The big man paused for an instant and a hissing spitting
noise came from his mouth.
There was a sharp crack and a great mirror on the wall
shivered in pieces. There was another, and then the big
man turned and literally bounded over the soft carpet,
flung himself through the door and disappeared.
Gideon Mendoza Morse advanced into the drawing-room,
smiling to himself and looking down at a little steel-blue
automatic in his hand.
Then Juanita and I came out of the alcove, hand in hand,
and he saw us.
Gideon Morse still had the little steel-blue automatic pistol
in his hand. He was actually smiling and humming a little
tune when he turned and saw Juanita and myself coming
out of the alcove.
In a flash his hand dropped the pistol into the pocket
of his dinner jacket and his face changed.
"Santa Maria!" he said in Spanish, and then, "Juanita,
Sir Thomas Kirby!"
"You remember you gave me an appointment to-night,
Mr. Morse," I stammered.
"Of course, of course, then — "
He said no more, for with a little gasp Juanita sank into
a heap upon the floor. We had loosened hands directly
the millionaire turned towards us and I was too late to
Morse was at her side in an instant.
"The bell," he said curtly, and I ran to the side of the
room and pressed the button hard and long.
Wow! but these money emperors of the world are well
served! In a second, so it seemed, the room was full of
people. The young secretary, a couple of maids, a dark
foreign-looking man in a morning coat and a black tie
whom I took to be the valet, and finally a gigantic fellow
in tweeds with a battered face as big as a ham and arms
which reached almost to his knees.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 69
The maids were at the girl's side in a moment, applying
restoratives. Morse rose, just as another door opened and
in sailed a stout elderly lady in a black evening dress with
a mantilla of black lace over her abundant and ivory white
hair. Morse said something to her in Spanish and I wished
I had been Arthur Winstanley to xmderstand it. Then I felt
my arm taken and Morse drew me away.
"It is nothing serious," he said, "just a little shock," and
as he said it he made a slight gesture with his head.
It was enough. The secretary, the valet, and the huge,
vulgar-looking man in tweeds faded away in an instant,
though not before I had seen the latter spot the broken
mirror, and a ferocious glint come into his eyes. Nor did
he look surprised.
Juanita began to come to herself and she was tenderly
carried away by the women. Morse accompanied them and
spoke in a rapid whisper to the distinguished old lady, who,
I knew, must be the Senora Balmaceda.
The two of lis were left alone, and for my part I sank
down in an adjacent chair quite exhausted in mind, if not
in body, by the happenings of the last ten minutes. Up
to the present — I will say nothing of the future — I had
never lived so fast or so much in such a short space of
time; and you've got to get accustomed to that sort of
thing really to enjoy it!
"I'm afraid your visit has been somewhat exciting," said
my host, in his musical, level voice. His eyes were as dark
and inscrutable as ever, but nevertheless, I saw that the
man was badly moved. He took a slim, gold cigarette case
70 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
from his waistcoat pocket and his hand trembled. More-
over, under the tan of his skin he was as white as a ghost —
there was a curious gray effect.
"I confess to having been a little startled. Your secre-
tary brought me in here and I was talking to Miss Morse
in the conservatory when — " I hesitated for a moment.
He saved me the trouble of going on.
''I guess," he said, "you and I had better have a little
drink now," and he went to the wall.
I don't pretend to know how the service was managed —
I suppose there was a sergeant-major somewhere in the
background who drilled the host of personal and hotel
attendances who ministered to the wants of Gideon Morse.
At any rate, this time no one entered but one of the hotel
footmen, and he brought the usual tray of cut-glass bot-
Morse mixed us both a brandy and soda and I noticed
two things. First, his hand was steady again; secondly,
the brandy was not decanted but came out of a bottle, on
which was the fleur-de-lys of ancient, royal France, blown
into the glass.
There was a twinkle in his eye when he saw I had spot-
"Yes," he said, "there are only three dozen bottles left,
even in the Ritz. They were found in a bricked-up cellar
of the Tuileries," and he tossed off his glass with relish.
So did I — Cleopatra's pearls were not so expensive.
"Now look here, Sir Thomas," Morse said, sitting down
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 71
by me and drawing up his chair, "you've seen something
to-night of a very unfortunate nature. You've seen it quite
by accident. If news of it got about, if it were even whis-
pered through a certain section of London, then the very
gravest harm might result, not only to me but to many
other persons also."
"My dear sir, I have seen nothing. I have heard noth-
ing. You may place implicit reliance upon that," and I
held out my hand to him, which he took in a firm grip,
"Thank you. Sir Thomas," he replied simply. "It was a
question," he hesitated for the fraction of a second, and
I knew he was lying, "it was a question of impudent black-
mail. I had expected something of the sort and was pre-
pared. You saw how the cowardly hound ran away."
"Quite so, Mr. Morse. Of course a man in your position
must be subject to these things occasionally."
"Ah, you see that," he said briskly, and I knew he was
relieved. "You are a man of the world, and you see that.
Well, I am thankful for your promise of silence. I am the
more annoyed, though, that Juanita should have been pres-
ent at a scene which, though really burlesque, must have
seemed to her one of violence."
I had my own opinion about the burlesque nature of the
incident, but I made haste to reassure him.
"Of course," I said, "it must have been distressing for
any lady, but it was the suddenness that upset her, and
I'm sure Miss Morse's nerves are far too good for it to
have any permanent effect."
"Yes," he answered, and in his voice there was a caress,
72 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"I can explain it all to Juanita, and the memory of this
evening will soon go from her."
Again I had my own private opinion, which I forbore to
state. Personally, I had very little doubt but that Juanita
would remember this evening as long as the darling lived!
It would not be my fault if she didn't! But I saw that this
was no moment to tell him that I loved her. Perhaps, if
we had been granted five minutes more in the conservatory
and I had said all I meant, and heard from her all I hoped,
I should have spoken then. As it was I could not, though
in my own mind I was certain she cared for me.
We were silent for a few moments, and then Morse
seemed to recall himself from private thought.
"I had nearly forgotten! " he said. "You specially wanted
to see me to-night, Sir Thomas, and you've very kindly
waited in order to do so."
Then I remembered the errand upon which I had come,
and pulled myself together mentally. I liked Morse. He
was of tremendous importance to me, and yet at the same
time it behooved me to be wary. Already I was certain that
he was playing a game with me in the matter of Mark
Antony Midwinter, whose name I kept rigidly to myself.
I must play my cards carefully.
Please understand me, I don't for a moment mean that
I felt he was my enemy, or inimical to me in any way. Far
from it. I knew that he liked me and wouldn't do me a
bad turn if he could help it. At the same time I was per-
fectly sure that if necessary he would use me like a pawn
in a mysterious game that I couldn't fathom, and I didn't
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 73
mean to be used like a pawn if I could help it. My hope
and ambition was to serve him, but I wanted a little reserve
of power also, for reasons I need not indicate.
"Yes," I said, "I telephoned you."
'•'And you mentioned a certain word which rather puzzled
"I did. 'Towers' was the word."
"I believe we are going to meet at The Towers at Cerne
in Norfolk," said Mr. Morse. "Sir Walter Stileman told me
that you were to be of the shooting party in September."
At that I laughed frankly, really he was a little under-
estimating me. He grinned and understood in a second.
"Tell me, Sir Thomas, exactly what you do mean," he
"Well, you know I am a newspaper proprietor and
"Of the best written and most alive journal in London!"
I bowed, and produced from an inside pocket Master
Bill Rolston's astonishing piece of copy.
"An unknown journalist who was introduced to me to-
day," I said, "brought a piece of news which would be of
absorbing interest to the country if it were published and
if it were true. Perahps you would like to read this."
I handed him the typewritten copy and prepared to watch
his face as he read it, but he was too clever for that. He
took it and perused it, walking up and down the room, and
I began to realize some of the qualities which had made
this man one of the powers of the world.
More especially so when he came and sat down again,
74 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
his face wreathed in smiles, though I could have sworn
fury lurked in the depths of his black eyes.
"Well, now," he said, "this is interesting, very interesting
indeed. I am going to be quite frank with you. Sir Thomas.
There's an amount of truth in this manuscript that would
cause me colossal worry if it were published at present.
Another thing it would do would be to quite upset a finan-
cial operation of considerable magnitude. Personally, I
should lose at the very least a couple of million sterling,
though that wouldn't make any appreciable difference to
my fortune, but a lot of other people would be ruined and
for no possible benefit to any one in the world except your-
self and the Evening Special!'
"Thank you," I said, "that's just why I came. Of
course nothing shall be published, though I'm quite in the
dark as to the nature of the whole thing."
"I call that generous, generous beyond belief. Sir Thomas,
for I know that it is the life of a newspaper to get hold of
exclusive news. I would offer you a large sum not to
publish this story did I not know that you would indig-
nantly refuse it. I am a student of men, my young friend,
if I may be allowed to call you so, and even if you were
a poor man instead of being a rich one as ordinary wealth
goes, I should never make such a proposition."
I glowed inwardly as he said it. It was a downright
compliment, coming from him under the circumstances, at
which any one would have been warmed to the heart. For
here was a great man, a Napoleon of his day, one who, if
he chose, could upset dynasties and plunge nations into
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 75
war. Yet, as I knew quite well, Gideon Mendoza Morse
wasn't a member of the great financial groups who control
and sway politics. In a sense he was that rare thing, a
pastoral millionaire. He owned vast tracts of country popu-
lated by lowing steers for the food of the world. In the
remote mountains of Brazil brown Indians toiled to wrest
precious metals and jewels from the earth for his advan-
tage. But from the feverish plotting of international
finance I knew him to stand aloof.
"I very much appreciate yoiu" remarks," was what I
told him, "and you may rest assured that nothing shall
"Thanks. But all the generosity mustn't be on your side.
You shall have your scoop, Sir Thomas, if you will wait
a little while."
"I am entirely at your service."
"Very well then," he said, and his manner grew extraor-
dinarily cordial, "let's put a period to it! I hope that,
from to-day, I and my daughter are going to see a great
deal of you — a great deal more of you than hitherto. You
know how we are" — he gave a little annoyed laugh — "run
after in London; and what a success Juanita has had
over here. What I hope to do is to form a little inner
circle of friends, and you must be one of them — if you
How my luck held! I thought. Here, offered freely and
with open hands, was the only thing I wanted. I am
glad to think that I found a moment in which to be sorry
for Arthur and dear old Pat Moore.
76 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"It's awfully good of you," I stammered.
He made a little impatient gesture with his hand.
"Please don't talk nonsense," he said. "And now about
the towers on Richmond Hill. I have told you that I can-
not explain fully until September. I will tell you, though,
that your clever little journalist — what, by the way, did you
say his name was?"
"Of course — ^has ferreted out much that I wished to con-
ceal, but he isn't entirely upon the right track. I am,
Kirby, at the bottom of the whole thing, and I have spent
goodness knows how much to keep that quiet."
He lit another cigarette, leant back in his chair and
laughed like a boy.
"I've bribed, and bribed, and bribed, I've managed to
put pressure, actually to put pressure upon the British Gov-
ernment. I've employed an untold number of agents, in
short I've exercised the whole of my intellect, and the pres-
sure of almost unlimited capital to keep my name out of
it. And now, you tell me, some little journalist has found
out one thing at least that I was determined to conceal
until September next! The plans of men and mice gang
oft agley, Kirby! This little man of yours must be a sort
of genius. I hope there are no more people like him prowl-
ing about Richmond Hill."
I was quite certain that there was not another Bill
Rolston anywhere, and I amused Morse immensely by de-
tailing the circumstances of the little, red-haired man's
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 77
arrival in Fleet Street. I never realized till now how
human and genial the great man could be, for he even ex-
panded sufficiently to offer to toss me a thousand pounds
to nothing for the services of Julia Dewsbury !
I saw my way with Juanita becoming smoother and
smoother every moment.
It was growing late, nearly one o'clock, when Morse in-
sisted on having some bisque soup brought in.
"I think we both want something really sustaining," he
said. "Do you begin and I'll just run up and see my sister-
in-law, Senora Balmaceda, and find out if Juanita is all
He left the room, and, happy that all had gone so well,
I sipped the incomparable white essence, and gave myself
up to dreams of the future.
I was to see her often. In September, at Sir Walter
Stileman's, Morse was to take me into his fullest con-
fidence. That could only mean one thing. Within a little
less than three months he would give his consent to my
marriage with his daughter. Another opportunity like this
of to-night, and Juanita and I would be betrothed. It would
be delightful to keep our secret until the shooting began.
I would follow her through the events of the season, watch
her mood, hear her extolled on every side, knowing all the
time she was mine. A vision came to me of Cowes week,
the gardens of the R. Y. Squadron, Juanita on board of my
own yacht "Moonlight."
I think I must have fallen asleep when I started into
78 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
consciousness to find myself staring into the great broken
mirror over the mantelpiece and to find that Mr. Morse
had returned and was smiling down upon me.
"She's all right, thank heavens," he said, "and has been
asleep for a long time. And now, as you seem sleepy too,
I'll bid you good-night, with a thousand thanks for your
It was nearly two o'clock I noticed when I stepped out
into the cool air of Piccadilly and walked the few yards
to my flat. I must have been asleep for quite a long time,
and dear old Morse had forborne to waken me.
I peculiarly remember my sense of well-being and hap-
piness during that short walk. I was in a glow of satis-
faction. Everything had turned out even better than I
had expected. What did the scoop for the paper matter
after all? Nothing, in comparison with the more or less
intimate relations in which I now stood with Gideon Morse.
I was to see Juanita constantly. She was almost mine al-
ready, and fortune had been marvelously on my side. Of
course there would be obstacles, there was no doubt of
that. I was no real match for her. But the obstacles in
the future were as nothing to those that had been already
surmounted. I began to smile with conceit at the diplo-
matic way in which I had dealt with the great financier;
not for a single moment, as I put my key into the latch,
did I dream that I had been played with the utmost skill,
tied myself irrevocably to silence, and that horrible trouble
and grim peril even now walked unseen by my side.
When I got into the smoking-room I found things just
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 79
as usual. I had hardly lit a last cigarette when the door
opened and Preston entered.
"Good heavens!" I said, "I never told you to wait up for
me, Preston. There was not the slightest need. You
ought to have been in bed hours ago."
"So I was, Sir Thomas," he said looking at me in a sur-
prised sort of way, and I noticed for the first time that
he was wearing a gray flannel dressing-gown and slippers.
"What do you mean?"
"Until the telephone message came, Sir Thomas."
"What telephone message?"
"Why, yours, Sir Thomas."
"I never telephoned. When do you mean?"
"Not very long ago, Sir Thomas," he said, "I didn't take
particular notice of the time, somewhere between one o'clock
I was on the alert at once, though I could not have par-
ticularly said why.
"Are you quite sure that it was I who 'phoned?"
"But, yes," he answered, "it was your voice, Sir Thomas.
You said you were speaking from the office."
"From the Evening Special? I've not been there since
late afternoon. And when have I ever been there so late?
There's never more than one person there all night long
until six in the morning. It's not a morning paper as you
Preston seemed more than ever bewildered as I flung this
"All I can say is, Sir Thomas," he said, "that I heard
8o THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
your voice distinctly and you said you were at the
"What did I say exactly?"
"About the young gentleman, Sir Thomas, the young
gentleman who has come to stay for a time. Your instruc-
tions were that he should be wakened and told to come
to Fleet Street without the least delay. You also said a
taxicab would be waiting for him, by the time he was
dressed, to drive him down."
"And he went?"
"Certainly, Sir Thomas, he was in his clothes quicker
than I ever see a gentleman dress before, had a glass of
milk and a biscuit, and the cab was just coming as I went
down with him and opened the front door."
I rushed out of the room, down the corridor and into
that which had been placed at Rolston's disposal. It was
as Preston said, the lad was gone. The bed was tumbled
as he had left it, but a portmanteau full of clothes, some
hair brushes and a tooth brush on the wash-stand remained.
Clearly Rolston believed he was obeying orders.
Preston had followed me out of the smoking-room and
stood at the door, a picture of uneasy wonder. Let me
say at once that Preston had been with me for six years,
and was under-butler at my father's house for I don't
know how many more. He is the most faithful and de-
voted creature on earth and, what is more, as sharp as a
needle. He, at any rate, had no hand in this business.
"There's something extraordinarily queer about this," I
said. "I assure you that I have never been near the tele-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 8i
phone during the whole night. I dined with Lord Arthur
in Soho and the rest of the evening I have been spending
at the Ritz Hotel with Mr. Gideon Morse. You've been
"I'm extremely sorry, Sir Thomas," he was beginning
when I cut him short.
"It's not in the least your fault, but are you certain
the voice was mine?"
He frowned with the effort at recollection.
"Well, Sir Thomas," he said, "if you hadn't told me what
you have, I believe I could almost have sworn to it. Of
course, voices are altered on the telephone, to some extent,
but it's extraordinary how they do, in the main, keep their
He spoke the truth. I, who was using the telephone all
day, entirely agreed with him.
"WeU, Preston, it was a skillful imitation and not my
voice at all."
"If you will excuse me, Sir Thomas," he replied, "your
voice is a very distinctive one. It's not very easily mis-
taken by any one who has heard your voice once or twice."
"That only makes the thing the more mysterious."
"The more easy, I should say. Sir Thomas. It must be
far less difficult to imitate an outstanding voice with marked
peculiarities than an ordinary one."
He was right there, it hadn't occurred to me before.
"But who in the office would dare to imitate my voice?"
"That, of course, I could not say. Sir Thomas, but we've
only the word of the unknown person who rang me up that
82 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
he was speaking from the office. For all we know he might
have been in the next flat."
That again was a point and I noted it.
"I'm not going to waste any time," I said. "I'll go down
to the office at once and see if I can find out anything."
He helped me on with my coat and within five minutes
of my entering I was again in Piccadilly.
Already the long ribbon of road was beginning to be
faintly tinged with gray. The dawn was not yet, but night
was flitting away before his coming. Save for an occa-
sional policeman and the rumble of heavy carts piled with
sweet-smelling vegetables and flowers for Covent Garden,
the great street was empty. I passed the Ritz Hotel with
a tender thought of one who lay sleeping there, and hur-
ried eastwards. I had nearly got to the Circus when a
taxi swung out of the Haymarket and I hailed the man.
He was tired and sleepy, had been waiting for hours at some
club or other, but I persuaded him, with much gold, to
take me, and we buzzed away toward the street of ink.
Here was activity enough. The later editions of the
morning papers were being vomited out of holes in the
earth by hundreds of thousands. Windows were lighted up
everywhere as I turned down a side street leading to the
river and came to my own offices.
I unlocked the door with my pass key and almost imme-
diately I was confronted by Johns, the night-watchman,
who flashed his torch in my face and inquired my business.
I was pleased to see the man alert and at his post and asked
who was in the building.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 83
''Only Mr. Benson, Sir Thomas; it's his week for night
I went up and very considerably surprised, not to say
alarmed, young Mr. Benson, who had the photograph of a
lady propped up on a desk before him and was obviously
inditing an amorous epistle.
I put him through the most searching possible cross-
examination, until I was quite sure that he had never tele-
phoned to my ilat. I knew him for a truthful, conscientious
fellow, without a glimpse of humor or the slightest histrionic
talent. Johns, called from below, was equally emphatic.
Certainly no taxi had arrived here during the last three
hours, nor had William Rolston come near the office.
I returned to Piccadilly, utterly baffled and without a
single ray of light in my mind.
On the morning of the fourteenth of September I met
Captain Pat Moore and Lord Arthur Winstanley at Liver-
pool Street station. We were all three of us asked to Cerne
as guests of that fine old sportsman, Sir Walter Stileman.
A special carriage was reserved for us and our servants
filled it with luncheon baskets and gun cases.
It was almost exactly three months since my eventful
night at the Ritz with Gideon Morse, and the disappear-
ance of little William Rolston.
What had passed since that time I can set out fully
in a very few words. First of all the position in which I
stood with regard to Juanita. It was somewhat extraor-
dinary, satisfactory, had yet unsatisfactory, utterly tan-
tali2dng. Morse had kept his promise. I had seen a great
deal of his daughter. At Henley, at Cowes — on board the
millionaire's wonderful yacht or on my own, in the sacred
gardens of the R. Y. S., where we met and m.et again. Yet
these meetings were always in public. Juanita was sur-
rovmded by men wherever she went. She was the reigning
beauty of her year. Her minutest doings were chronicled
in the Society papers with a wealth of detail that was as-
tounding. I used to read the stuff, including that of my
own Miss Easey, with a sort of impotent rage. Some of'
it was true, a lot of it was lies and surmise, but to me it
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 85
was all distasteful. Juanita lived in the full glare of the
public eye, and a royal princess could hardly have been
more unapproachable. Of course I used stratagems innu-
merable, and more than once she went half-way to meet
me, but the long desired tete-a-tete never came to pass. It
was not only because of the troop of admirers that crowded
round her, of which I was only one, but there was an ex-
traordinary adroitness, "a hidden hand" at work somewhere,
to keep us apart. I was quite certain of this, yet I could
not prove it, though even if I had it would have been of
little use. Old Senora Balmaceda, who overwhelmed me
with kindness and attention, was simply wonderful in her
watch over Juanita.
As for Gideon Morse, he would talk to me by the hour —
and his talk was well worth listening to — but somehow
or other he was always in the way when I wanted to be
alone with his daughter. Of course I sometimes thought
I was exaggerating, and that I was so hard hit that I saw
things in a jaundiced or prejudiced light. Yet certainly
Juanita was often alone for a short time with other men
than I, notably with the young and good-looking Duke
of Perth, whom I hated as cordially as I knew how.
Then, in August, I had a nasty knock. The Morses went
off to Scotland for the grouse shooting as guests of the
Duke, and I wasn't asked, or ever in the way of being
asked if it comes to that, to join the "small and select
house-party" that the papers were so full of. I had to
content myself with pictures on the front page of the
Illustrated Weeklies depicting Juanita in a tweed skirt and
86 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
a tarn o' shanter, side by side with Perth, wearing a fatuous
smile and a gun. I had one crumb of consolation only and
that was, when saying good-by to Juanita, I felt something
small and hard in the palm of her hand. It was a little
tightly folded piece of paper and on it was one word,
That of course helped a great deal. It was obvious what
she meant. When we met at Sir Walter Stileman's, then
at last my opportunity would come.
And now about the little journalist and his extraordinary
disappearance. I made every possible inquiry, engaging
the most skilled agents and sparing no money in the quest,
but I found out nothing — absolutely nothing. The red-
headed lad with the prominent ears had vanished into thin
air, had flashed into my life for a moment and then gone
out of it with the completeness of an extinguished candle.
He had been, he was no more. Poor Miss Dewsbury, on
whom the disappearance had a marked effect, discussed
the matter with me a dozen times. We broached theory
after theory only to reject them, and at last we ceased to
talk about the matter at all. I remember her words on
the last time we talked of it. They were prophetic, though
I did not know it then.
"All I can say is. Sir Thomas, that voices, not my own,
whisper constantly in my ear that the shadow of the three
giant towers upon Richmond Hill lies across your path."
Poor thing, she was almost hysterical in those times,
and I paid little heed to her words. As for the scoop,
no other paper had even hinted at Rolston's revelation. I
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 87
had faithfully kept my word to Morse, not forgetting that
he had promised to explain everything — in September.
As the train swung out of Liverpool Street and Pat and
Arthur were ragging each other as to who should have the
Times first, I experienced a sense of mental relief. Only
a few hours now and the great question of my life would
be settled, once and for all. No more doubts, no more
During the last three months, Arthur and Pat had left
me very much to myself. They had behaved with the most
perfect tact and kindness, Arthur, as I have said, having
obtained for me the invitation to Cerne. Now, after we
had traveled for a couple of hours and the luncheon baskets
had been opened, old Pat lit a cigar and looked across at
me. His big, brown face was grave, and he played with
his mustache as if in some embarrassment.
He and Arthur glanced at each other, and I understood
what was in their minds.
"Look here, you fellows," I said, "about the sacred Broth-
erhood — what is it in Spanish?"
"Santa Hermandad," said Arthur.
"Well, you've kept your oath splendidly. I cannot thank
you enough. I have had the running all to myself — as
far as you two are concerned, for twelve weeks."
"Yes, twelve weeks," Pat replied, with a sigh. "We've
kept out of the way, old fellow, and I tell you it's been
Arthur nodded in corroboration, and somehow or other
I felt myself a cur. Since boyhood we three had been like
88 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
brothers, and it was a hard fate indeed that led us to
center all our hopes upon something that could belong to
Despite what must have been their burning eagerness to
know how things stood, both of them were far too delicate-
minded and well-bred to ask a question, I knew it was up
to me to satisfy them.
"Without going into details," I said, "I'll tell you just
how it is, how I think it is, for I may be quite wrong, and
presuming upon what doesn't exist."
I thought for a moment, and chose my words carefully.
It was extremely difficult to say what I had to say.
"It comes to about this," I got out at last. "I've every
reason to believe that she likes me. There's nothing deci-
sive, but I've been given some hope. I very nearly put
it to the test three months ago, but was interrupted and
never had the chance again. At Cerne I'm going to try,
finally. By hook or crook, in forty-eight hours, I'll have
some news for you. And if I get the sack, then let the next
man go in and win if he can, and I'll join the third in
doing everything that lies in my power to help him."
"I am next," said Pat Moore, "not that I've the deuce
of a chance. But I think you've spoken like a damn good
sort, Tom, and we thank you. Arthur and I will do our
best to keep every one else off the grass while you go in
and try your luck. Faith! I'll make love to the duenna with
the white hair meself and keep her out of the way, and
Arthur here will consult with Morse upon the expediency of
investing his large capital, which he hasn't got, in a Brazil-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 89
nut farm. Anyhow, Perth, who has been the safety bet with
all the tipsters, won't be there. He's such a rotten shot
that Sir Walter wouldn't dream of asking him. The bag
has got to be kept up. For three years now, only Sandring-
ham has beat it and a duffer at a drive would send the
average down appallingly."
"What about me?" I asked, with a sinking of the heart.
"God forgive me," said Arthur, "I've lied about you to
Sir Walter like the secretary of a building society to a
maiden lady with two thousand pounds. He was aston-
ished that he had never heard of your shooting — of course,
he knows all the shots of the day, and I had to tell him
a fairy story about your late lamented father who was a
Puritan and would never let his son join coimtry house-
parties because they played cards after dinner."
I smiled, on the wrong side of my mouth. My dear
old governor had been anything but a Puritan: I feared
the scandal which would inevitably ensue when I went out
for the first big drive.
'That's all right, Tom," said Arthur, "you'll simply have
to sprain your ankle, or I'll give you a good hack in the
shin privately if you like. Sir Walter has only to send a
wire to get a first-class gun down. There are at least a
dozen men I know who would almost commit parricide for
After that, by general consent, the subject of the league
was dropped. We all knew where we were, and for the
rest of the journey we talked of ordinary things.
It was a bright afternoon in early autumn when we
90 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
stopped at the little local station and got into a waiting
motor-car, while our servants collected our things and
followed in the baggage lorry. For myself, I felt in the
highest spirits as we buzzed along the three miles to Cerne
Hall. There was a pleasant nip in the air; the vast land-
scape was yellow gold, as acre after acre of stubble stretched
towards the horizon. Gray church towers embowered in
trees broke the vast monotony, and I surrendered myself
to a happy dream of Juanita, while Arthur and Pat talked
shooting and marked covies that rose on either side as we
When we arrived at Cerne Hall it was not yet tea-time,
and everybody was out. The butler showed us to our
rooms, all close together in the south wing of the fine old
house, and I smoked a cigarette while Preston was un-
"Everybody arrived yet, Preston?" I asked.
"Not yet. Sir Thomas, so I understand. I and Captain
Moore's man and his lordship's was havin' a cherry brandy
in the housekeeper's room just now, and the bulk of the
house-party will be arriving by the later train, between tea
and dinner. Sir Thomas."
"And Mr. Morse?"
"Only just before dinner. Sir Thomas; he always travels
in a special train."
I saw by Preston's face that he considered this a snob-
bish and ostentatious thing to do, and, in the case of an
ordinary multi-millionaire, I should certainly have agreed
with him. But I recalled facts that had come to my notice
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 91
about the famous Brazilian, and I wondered. There was
the astounding scene at the Ritz, for instance, and more
than that. I had not been following up Juanita for three
months, in town, at Henley, and at Cowes, without notic-
ing that Mr. Gideon Morse seemed to have an unobtrusive
but quite singular entourage.
More than once, for example, I had caught sight of a cer-
tain great hulking man in tweeds, a professional Irish-
American bruiser, if ever there was one.
Tea was in the hall of the great house. I was intro-
duced to Sir Walter, a delightful man, with a hooked nose,
a tiny mustache, the remains of gray hair, and a charming
smile. Lady Stileman also made me most welcome. Her
hair was gray, but her figure was slight and upright as a
girl's, and many girls in the County must have envied her
dainty prettiness, and the charm of her lazy, musical
Circumstances paired me off with a vivacious young lady
whose face I seemed to know, whose surname I could not
catch, but whom every one called 'Toppy."
"I say," she said, after her third cup of tea and fourth
egg sandwich, "you're the Evening Special, aren't you?"
I admitted it.
"Well," she said, "I do think you might give me a show
now and then. Considering the press I generally get, I've
never been quite able to understand why the Special leaves
me out of it."
I thought she must be an actress — and yet she hadn't
quite that manner. At any rate I said:
92 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"I'm awfully sorry, but you see I'm only editor, and I've
nothing really to do with the dramatic criticism. How-
ever, please say the word, and I'll ginger up my man at
"Dramatic criticism!" she said, her eyes wide with sur-
prise. "Sir Thomas, can it really be that you don't know
who I am?"
It was a little embarrassing.
"Do you know, I know your face awfully well," I said,
"though I'm quite sure we've never met before or I should
have remembered, and when Lady Stileman introduced us
just now all I caught was Poppy."
She sighed — I should put her between nineteen and
twenty in age — "Well, for a London editor, you are a fossil,
though you don't look more than about six-and-twenty.
Why, Poppy Bo5niton!"
Then, in a flash, I knew. This was the Hon. Poppy
Boynton, Lord Portesham's daughter, the flying girl, the
leading lady aviator, who had looped the loop over Mont
Blanc and done all sorts of mad, extraordinary things.
"Oj course, I know you. Miss Boynton! Only, I never
expected to meet you here. What a chance for an editor!
Do tell me all your adventures."
"Will you give me a column interview on the front
page if I do?"
"Of course I will. I'll write it myself."
"And a large photograph?"
"Half the back page if you like."
"You're a dear," she said in a business-like voice. "On
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 93
second thoughts, I'll write the interview myself and give
it you before we leave here. And, meanwhile, I'll tell you
an extraordinary flight of mine only yesterday."
I was in for it and there was no way out. Still, she
was extremely pretty and a celebrity in her way, so I set-
tled myself to listen.
"What did you do yesterday morning?" I asked, "Did
you loop the loop over Saint Paul's or something?"
"Loop the loop!" she replied, with great contempt.
"That's an infantile stunt of the dark ages. No, I went
for my usual morning fly before breakfast and saw a marvel,
and got cursed by a djinn out of the Arabian Nights."
This sounded fairly promising for a start, but as she went
on I jerked like a fish in a basket.
"You know the great wireless towers on Richmond Hill?"
"Of course. The highest erection in the world, isn't it,
more than twice the height of the Eiffel Tower? You can
see the things from all parts of London."
"On a clear day," she nodded, "the rest of the time the
top is quite hidden by clouds. Now it struck me I'd go
and have a look at them close to. Our place, Norman
Court, is only about fifteen miles farther up the Thames.
I started off in my little gnat-machine and rose to about
fifteen hundred feet at once, when I got into a bank of
fleecy wet cloud, fortunately not more than a hundred
yards or so thick. It was keeping all the sun from London
about seven-thirty yesterday morning. When I came out
above, of course I wasn't sure of my direction, but as I
turned the machine a point or so I saw, standing up straight
94 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
out of the cloud at not more than six miles away, the tops
of the towers. I headed straight for them."
She lit a cigarette and I noticed her face changed a little.
There was an introspective look in the eyes, a look of
"As I drew near, Sir Thomas, I saw what I think is the
most marvelous sight I have ever seen. You people who
crawl about on earth never do see what we see. I have
flown over Mont Blanc and seen the dawn upon the Mat-
terhorn and Monte Rosa from that height, and I thought
that was the most heavenly thing ever seen by mortal eye.
But yesterday morning I beat that impression — ^yes! — ^right
on the outskirts of London and only a few hours ago!
Down from below nobody can really see much of the towers.
You haven't seen much, for instance, have you?"
"Only that they're now all linked together at the top by
the most intricate series of girders, on the suspension prin-
ciple, I suppose. There are a lot of sheds and things on
this artificial space, or at least it looks like it."
"Sheds and things! Sir Thomas, I thought I saw the
New Jerusalem floating on the clouds! The morning sun
poured down upon a vast, hanging space of which you can
have no conception, and rising up on every side from snowy-
white ramparts were towers and cupolas with gilded roofs
which blazed like gold. There were fantastic halls pierced
with Oriental windows, walls which glowed like jacinth
and amethyst, and parapets of pearl.
"It was a city, a City in the Clouds, a place of enchant-
ment floating high, high up above the smoke and the din
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 95
of London— serene, majestic, and utterly lovely. I tell
you"— here her voice dropped— "the vision caught at my
heart, and a great lump came into my throat. I'm pretty
hard-bitten, too! As I went past one side of the immense
triangle— which must occupy several acres— on which the
city is built, I saw an inner courtyard with what seemed
like green lawns. I could swear there were trees planted
there and that a great fountain was playing like a stream
of liquid diamonds.
"I was so startled, and almost frightened, that I ripped
away for several miles till, descending a little through the
cloud-bank, I found I was right over Tower Bridge.
"But I swore I'd see that majestic city again, and I
spiraled up and turned.
"There it was, many miles away now, a mere speck
upon the billowing snow of the cloud-bank, and as I raced
towards it once more it grew and grew into all its former
loveliness. I adjusted my engines and went as slow as I
possibly could— perhaps you know that our modern aero-
planes, with the new helicopter central screw, can glide
at not much more than fifteen miles an hour, for a short
distance that is. Well, that's what I did, and once more
the place burst upon me in all its wonder. It's the marvel
of marvels. Sir Thomas; I haven't got words even to hint
at it. I could see details more clearly now, and I floated
by among the ramparts on one side, not a pistol shot away.
And then, upon the top of a little flat tower there appeared
the most extraordinary figure.
"It was a gigantic yellow-faced man in a long robe and
96 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
wide sleeves, and he threw his hands above his head and
cursed me. Of course the noise of the engine drowned
all he said, but his face was simply fiendish. I just caught
one flash of it, and I never want to see anything like it
I sat spellbound in my chair while she told me this and
again the sense that I was being borne along, whither
I knew not, by some irresistible current of fate, possessed
me to the exclusion of all else.
"Why, you look quite tired and gray. Sir Thomas," said
Miss Boynton. "I do hope I haven't bored you."
"Bored me! I was away up in the air with you, looking
upon that enchanted city. But why, what do you make
of it, have you told any one?"
"Only father and my sister, who said that it must have
been an illusion of the mist, a refraction of the air at high
altitudes that transformed the wireless instrument sheds
She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
"As if I didn't know all about that!" she said. "Why,
it wasn't much more than two thousand feet up — a mere
I had to think very rapidly at this juncture. The news
took one's breath away. To begin with, one thing seemed
perfectly clear. Gideon Morse had purposely told me as
little as he possibly could. Yet, upon reflection, I found
that he had told me no lies. He had admitted that he was
at the bottom of this colossal enterprise — was it some Earl's
Court of the air, the last word in amusement catering? It
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 97
might well be so, though somehow or other the thought
annoyed me. Moreover, the capital outlay must have been
so vast that such a scheme could never pay interest upon
it. Then I recollected that in a few hours more I should
have my promised talk with Morse and he would explain
everything as he had promised. There was still a chance
of a big scoop for the Evening Special.
"Look here, Miss Boynton," I said, "if you keep what
you have seen a secret for the next two days, and then let
me publish an account of it, my paper would gladly pay
two hundred and fifty pounds for the story."
Her eyes opened wide, like those of a child who has been
promised a very big box of chocolates indeed.
"Can do," she said, holding out a pretty little hand which
flying had in no way roughened or distorted. I took it, and
so the bargain was made.
Soon afterwards more guests began to arrive, and the
great hall was full of laughing, chattering figures, among
whom were several people that I knew. However, I was
in no mood for society or small talk and I retired to my
own room and sat dreaming before a comfortable fire until
Preston came in and told me it was time to dress.
I was ashamed to ask him if the Morses had arrived,
but I went downstairs into a large yellow drawing-room
half full of people, and looked round eagerly.
Lady Stileman was standing by one of the fireplaces
talking to Miss Boynton, and I went up to them. Appar-
ently it was a wonderful year for "birds," as partridges,
and partridges alone, are called in Norfolk. They had
98 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
hatched out much later than usual, hence the waiting until
the middle of September, but covies were abnormally large
and the young birds already strong upon the wing. Fortu-
nately Lady Stileman did all the talking; I smiled, looked
oracular and said "Quite so" at intervals. My eye was on
the drawing-room door which led out into the hall. Once,
twice, it opened, but only to admit strangers to me. The
third time, when I made sure I should see her for whom
I sought, no one came in but a footman in the dark green
livery of the house. He carried a salver, and on it was
the orange-colored envelope of a telegram.
With a word of excuse Lady Stileman opened it. She
nodded to the man to go and then turned to me and Poppy
"Such a disappointment," she said. "Mr. Morse and
his wonderfully pretty daughter were to have been here, as
I think you know. Now he wires to say that business of
the utmost importance prevents either him or his daughter
coming. Fortunately," the good lady concluded, "he doesn't
shoot, so that won't throw the guns out. Walter would be
furious if that happened."
Arthur and Pat Moore came into the room at that mo-
ment, and Arthur told me, an hour or so afterwards, that
I looked as if I had seen a ghost, and that my face was
white as paper.
I MUST now, in the progress of the story, give a brief
account of what I may call "The week of rumor," which
immediately preceded my disappearance and plunge into
I spent a miserable and agitated evening at Cerne Hall,
and went early to my room. Arthur and Pat joined me
there an hour later and for some time we talked over
what the telegram from Morse might mean, until they re-
tired to their own rooms and I was left alone.
I did not sleep a wink — indeed, I made no effort to go
to bed, though I took off my clothes and wrapped myself
in a dressing-gown. The suspense was almost unbearable,
and, failing further news, I determined, at any cost to the
shooting plans of my host, to get myself recalled to London
by telegram. I felt sure that the whole of my life's happi-
ness was at stake.
The next morning at nine o'clock, just as I was pre-
paring to go down to breakfast, a long wire was brought
to me. It was in our own office cipher, which I was trained
to read without the key, and it was signed by Julia Dews-
bury. The gist of the message was that there were strange
rumors all over Fleet Street about the great towers at Rich-
mond. An enormous sensation was gathering like a thunder
loo THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
cloud in the world of news and would shortly burst. Would
I come to London at the earliest possible moment?
How I got out of Cerne Hall I hardly remember, but
I did, to the blank astonishment of my host; drove to
the nearest station, caught a train which got me to Nor-
wich in half an hour and engaged the swiftest car in the
city to run me up to London at top speed. Just after lunch
I burst into the office of the Evening Special.
Williams and Miss Dewsbury were expecting me.
"It's big stufif," said the acting editor excitedly, "and
we ought to be in it first, considering that we've more defi-
nite information than I expect any other paper possesses
as yet, though it won't be the case for very long,"
I sat down with hardly a word, and nodded to Miss
Dewsbury. Her training was wonderful. She had every-
thing ready in order to acquaint me with the facts in the
shortest possible space of time.
She spoke into the telephone and Miss Easey — "Vera"
of our "Society Gossip" — came in.
"I have found out, Sir Thomas," she said, "that Mr.
Gideon Morse has canceled all social engagements what-
ever for himself and his daughter. Miss Dewsbury tells me
that it's not necessary now to say what these were. I
will, however, tell you that they extended until the New
Year and were of the utmost social importance."
"Canceled, Miss Easey?"
"Definitely and finally canceled, both by letter to the
various hosts and hostesses concerned, and by an intima-
tion which is already sent to all the London dailies, for
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS loi
publication to-morrow. The notice came up to my room
this morning from our own advertising office, for inclusion
in 'Society Notes' — as you know such intimations are
printed as news and paid for at a guinea a line."
"Any reason given, Miss Easey?"
"None whatever in the notices, which are brief almost
to curtness. However, I have been able to see one of
the private letters which has been received by my friends.
Lord and Lady William Gatehouse, of Banks. It is cour-
teously worded, and explains that Mr. and Miss Morse are
definitely retiring from social life. It's signed by his secre-
The invaluable Julia nodded to Miss Easey. She pursed
up her prim old mouth, wished me good-morning and
"That's that!" said Julia, "now about the towers."
"Yes, about the towers," I said, and my voice was very
"As my poor friend, ^Iv. Rolston, discovered," she said
bravely, "these monstrous blots upon London are certainly
not for the purposes of wireless telegraphy. There are half
the journalists in London at Richmond at the present mo-
ment, including two of our own reporters, and it is said
that on the immense platforms between the towers, a series
of extraordinary and luxurious buildings has been erected.
It is widely believed that Gideon Morse is out of his mind,
and has retired to a sort of unassailable, luxurious hermitage
in the sky."
There was a knock at the door and a sub-editor came
I02 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
in with a long white strip just torn from the tape machine.
I took it and read that the "Central News Agencies" an-
nounces "crowds at base of towers surrounded by a thirty-
foot wall. Callers at principal gate are politely received
by Boss Mulligan, formerly well-known boxer, United
States, now in the service of Gideon M. Morse. Inquirers
told that no statement can be issued for publication. Later.
Rumor in neighborhood says that towers are entirely staffed
by special Chinese servants, large company of which ar-
rived at Liverpool on Thursday last. Growing certainty
that towers are private enterprise of one man, Morse, the
A telephone bell on my table rang. I took it up.
"Is that Sir Thomas? Charles Danvers speaking" — it
was the voice of our dapper young Parliamentary corre-
spondent, the nephew of a prominent under-secretary, and
as smart as they make them.
"Yes, where are you?"
"House of Commons. Mr. Bloxhame, Member for Bud-
mouth, is asking a question in the House this afternoon
about the Richmond Tower sensation. The Secretary to
the Board of Trade will reply. There's great interest in
the lobby. Special edition clearly indicated. Question will
come on about four."
I sent every one away and thought for a quarter of
an hour. Of course all this absolved me of my promise
to Morse. He had played with me, fooled me absolutely
and I had been like a babe in his astute hands. Well,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 103
there was no time to think of my own private grievances.
My immediate duty was to make as good a show that aft-
ernoon and the next day as any other paper. My hope was
to beat all my rivals out of the field.
After all, there were nothing but rumors and surmise
up to the present. The news situation might change in a
couple of hours, but at the present moment I felt certain
that I knew more about the affair than any other man in
Fleet Street. I set my teeth and resolved to let old Morse
have it in the neck.
Within an hour or so we had an "Extra Edition" on
the streets, and during that hour I drew on my own pri-
vate knowledge and dictated to Miss Dewsbury, and a
couple of other stenographers. Poppy Boynton's experi-
ence was a godsend. I remembered her own vivid words
of the night before, and I printed them in the form of
an interview which must have satisfied even that delightful
girl's himger for advertisement. Incidentally, I sent a man
from the Corps of Commissionaires down to Cerne in a
fast motor-car, with notes for two hundred and fifty in an
envelope, and instructions to stop in Regent Street on his
way and buy the finest box of chocolates that London
could produce — I remember the bill came in a few days
afterwards, and if you'll believe me, it was for seventeen
At four o'clock, while the question was being asked in
the House of Commons, and all the other evening papers
were waiting the result for their special editions, my "Extra
104 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Special" was rushing all over London — the "Extra Special"
containing the "First Authentic Description of the City in
"You really are wonderful, Sir Thomas," said Miss Dews-
bury, removing her tortoise-shell spectacles and touching her
eyes with a somewhat dingy handkerchief, "but where, oh,
where is William Rolston?"
"My dear girl," I replied, "from what I've seen of
William Rolston, I'm quite certain that he's alive and kick-
ing. Not only that, but we shall hear from him again very
"You really think so, Sir Thomas?" — the eyes, hitherto
concealed by the spectacles, were really rather fascinating
eyes after all.
"I don't think so, I know it. Look here, Miss Dews-
bury" — for some reason I couldn't resist the temptation
of a confidence — "this thing, this stunt hits me privately a
great deal harder than you can have any idea of. You
said that the shadow of the towers was across my path,
and you were more right than you knew. Enough said.
I think we've whacked Fleet Street this afternoon. Well
and good. There's a lot behind this momentary sensation,
which I shall never leave go of until it's straightened out.
This is between you and me, not for office consumption,
but," I put my hand upon her thin arm, "if I can help in
any way, you shall have your Bill Rolston."
She turned her head away and walked to the window.
Then she said an astonishing thing.
"If only I could help you to your Juanita!"
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 105
''WHAT!" I shouted, "what on earth—"
A page came m with a telegram.
"Addressed to you, Sir Thomas," he said, "marked per-
I tore it open, it was from Pat Moore.
"Extraordinary youth followed us out shooting, and
came up at lunch asking for you. Boy of about sixteen.
Mysterious cove with the assurance of Mephistopheles.
Some question of fifty pounds was to get from you on
delivering letter. Gave him your address and he departed
I couldn't make head or tail of Pat's wire, and I put
it down on the table for future consideration, when Wil-
liams hurried in with a pad of paper.
"Danvers just 'phoned through," he said, "and I've sent
the message downstairs for the stop press."
I began to read.
"Bloxhame interrogated Secretary to the Board of Trade,
who replied it was perfectly true that the towers were built
to the order of Gideon Morse and were his property. Morse
has entered into an agreement with the Government engag-
ing not to use the towers for wireless telegraphy or for
any other purpose than a strictly private one, which appears
to be that he intends to live on the platforms on the top.
At his death the whole property will pass into possession
of the Government, to be used for wireless purposes, or
for the principal aeroplane station between England and
the Continent. Aeroplanes, when the existing buildings are
io6 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
removed, will be able to alight from the platforms in num-
bers. Expenditure from first to last, Board of Trade esti-
mates at seven millions. Feeling of House at such a mag-
nificent gift to the Nation, which is bound to fall in within
twenty years or so, friendly and satisfactory. In answer
to a question from Commander Crosman, M.P. for Rod-
well, President Board of Aerial Control announces that
strict orders have been issued that aeroplanes are not to
circle round the towers or in any way annoy present pro-
prietor. The House is greatly amused and interested at
this romantic news."
Williams departed to issue another "Extra Special," and
I was once more left alone. Obviously the secret was out,
it was startling enough in all conscience, and, as I thought,
merely the whim of a madman. And yet there were aspects
of it which were inexplicable. There could be no doubt
whatever that Gideon Morse had flouted English society,
which had treated him with extreme kindness, in a way
that it would never forget. That surely was not the action
of a sane man. If he had wanted to build for himself
a lordly "pleasure house" to which he might retire upon
occasions, a sane man would have arranged things very
differently. Certainly, and this was not without some
bitter satisfaction to me, he had ruined his daughter's
chances of a brilliant marriage — for a long time at any rate.
I saw that secrecy had been necessary, though it had been
carried to an extreme degree; but why had he fooled me
under the guise of friendship? Surely he could have trusted
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 107
I was furious as I thought of the way I had been done.
I was furious also, and worse than furious, alarmed, when
I thought of Juanita. Had she been in the plot the whole
time? Did she like being spirited away from all that
could make a young girl's life bright and happy? What
was at the bottom of it all?
The only thing to do was to try and keep ahead, or
level, with my rival contemporaries in the matter of news,
and privately to wait on events, and think the matter out
definitely. For the next few days, weeks perhaps, some
of the acutest brains in England would be puzzled over
this problem, and if there was really anything more in it
than the freak of a colossal egotist, who thus, with a superb
gesture, signified his scorn of the world, then some light
Suddenly I felt ill, and collapsed. I gave a few instruc-
tions, left the office and went home to Piccadilly, and to
It was about eight o'clock when Preston woke me. I
had had a bath and changed, and was wondering exactly
what I should do for the rest of the evening, when Preston
came in and said that there was a boy who wished to see
me. He would neither give his name nor his business, but
I remembered Pat's mysterious telegram, which till now
I had quite forgotten, and with a certain quickening of the
pulses I ordered the boy to be shown up.
He came into the room with a scrape and a bow, a nice-
looking lad of sixteen, decently dressed in black.
io8 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"Who are you and what do you want?" I said.
He seemed a little nervous and his eyes were bright.
"Are you Sir Thomas Kirby?"
"Yes, what is it? By the way, haven't you been all the
way to Norfolk to find me?"
"Yes, sir, it's my day off, but unfortunately I found
you had left, sir, so I came on here as fast as I could.
A gentleman at Cerne Hall gave me your address."
"And how did you know I was at Cerne Hall?"
"It's on the envelope, sir."
"Yes, sir, the one I was to deliver to you personally,
and on no account to let it get into the hands of any one
else, even one of your servants, sir, and" — he breathed a
little fast — "and the lady said that you would certainly
give me fifty pounds, sir, if I did exactly as she ordered,
and never breathed a word to a single soul."
In an instant I understood. The blood grew hot and
raced into my veins as I held out my hand, trembling with
impatience, while the youth performed a somewhat com-
plicated operation of half undressing, eventually produc-
ing a brown paper packet intricately tied with string, from
some inner recesses of his wardrobe.
"Who are you?" I asked while he was unbuttoning.
"James Smith, sir, one of the pages at the Ritz Hotel."
I tore off the wrappers imposed upon the letter by this
cautious youth. There was a letter addressed to me in a
fine Italian hand which I knew from having seen it in one
word only — "Cerne."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 109
Fortunately, I had plenty of money in the flat and there
was no need to give the excellent James Smith a check.
He gasped with joy as he tucked away the crackling bits
"And remember, not ever a word to any one, Smith."
''On my honor, sir," he said, saluting.
"And what will you do with it, Smith?"
"Please, sir, I hope to pelmanize myself into an hotel
manager," he said, and I let him go at that. I only hope
that he will succeed.
I opened the letter. It ran as follows:
"Farewell. I don't suppose we shall ever meet again.
I am forced to retire from the world — from love — from
"I cannot explain, but fear walks with me night and
day. Oh, my love! if you could only save me, you would,
I know, but it is impossible and so farewell. Were I not
sure that we shall not see each other more I could not write
as I have done and signed myself here,
I put the letter carefully into the breast-pocket of my
coat, and then, for the first time in my life, I fainted dead
Preston found me a few minutes later, got me right some-
how, ascertained that I had not eaten for many hours,
scolded me like a father, and poured turtle soup into me
no THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
till I was alive again, alive and changed from the man I
had been a few hours ago.
The next day I satisfied myself that all was going well
in the office, and simply roamed about London. Already
I think the dim purpose which afterwards came to such
extraordinary fruit was being born in my mind. I wanted
to be alone, taken quite out of my usual surroundings,
and I achieved this with considerable success. I rode in
tube trains and heard every one discussing Gideon Morse,
and what was already known as the "City in the Clouds."
The papers announced that thousands of people were en-
camped in Richmond Park gazing upwards, and seeing noth-
ing because of a cloud veil that hung around the top of
the towers. It seemed the proprietors of telescopes on
tripods were doing a roaring trade at threepence a look,
but the gate in the grim, prison-like walls surrounding the
grounds at the foot of the tower, was never once opened
all day long.
I began to realize that probably nothing new, nothing
reliable that is, would transpire at present. The sensation
would go its usual way. There would be songs and allu-
sions in all the revues to-night. Punch would have a car-
toon, suggesting the City in the Clouds as a place of ban-
ishment for its particular bugbear of the moment. Gossip
papers would be full of beautiful, untrue stories of a ro-
mantic nature about the girl I loved, her name would be
the subject of a million jokes by a million vulgar people.
Then, little by little, the excitement would die away.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS in
All this, as a trained journalist I foresaw easily enough,
but knowing what I knew— what probably I alone of all
the teeming millions in London knew— I was forming a
resolve, which hourly grew stronger, that I would never
rest until I knew the worst.
I found myself in Kensington. There was a motor-
omnibus starting for Whitechapel Road. I climbed on the
"I sye," piped a little ragamuffin office boy to his friend,
"why does Jewanniter live in the clouds, Willum?"
"Arsk me another."
" 'Cos she's a celebrated 'airess— see?"
"What I say," said a meager-looking man with a bris-
tling mustache which unsuccessfully concealed his slack
and feeble mouth, "is simply this. If Mr. Morse chooses
to live in a certain way of life and 'as the money to carry
it out, why not let him alone? Freedom for every indi-
vidual is a 'progative of English life, and I expect Morse
is fair furious with what they're saying about him, for
I have it on the best authority that a copy of every edition
of the Evening Special goes up to him in the tower lifts as
soon as it is issued."
Words, words, words! everywhere, silly, irresponsible
chatter which I heeded as little as a thrush heeds a shower
Steadily, swiftly, certainly, my purpose grew.
I got down in the Whitechapel Road, that wide and un-
lovely thoroughfare, and, feeling hungry, went into a dingy
little restaurant partitioned off in boxes. The tablecloth
112 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
was of stained oil skin, the guests the seediest t5T)e of minor
clerks, but I do remember that for ninepence I had a little
beefsteak and kidney pudding to myself which was as good
as anything I have ever eaten. As I went out I saw my
neighbor of the omnibus who had spoken so eloquently
of freedom, walking by with a little black bag, as in an
aimless way I hailed a taxicab from the rank opposite a
London hospital and told the man to drive slowly west-
He did so, and when we came to the Embankment a
gleam of afternoon sunshine began to enlighten what had
been a leaden day. Thinking a brisk walk from Black
Friars to Westminster would help my thoughts, I dismissed
the cab and started.
It was with an odd little thrill and flutter of the heart
that far away westwards, to the left of the Houses of Par-
liament, I saw three ghostly lines, no thicker than lamp
posts, it seemed, springing upwards from nothingness. At
Cleopatra's Needle, I felt the want of a cigarette and
stopped to light one.
At the moment there were few people on the pavement,
though the unceasing trafi&c in the road roared by as usual.
I lit the cigarette, put my case back in my pocket, and
was about to continue my stroll when I heard some one
padding up behind me with obvious purpose.
I half turned, and there again I saw the man with the
weak mouth and the big mustache.
It flashed upon me, for the first time, that 1 was being
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 113
followed, had been followed probably during the whole of
As I said, there was nobody immediately about, so I
turned to rabbit-face and challenged him.
"You're following me, my man, why? Out with it or
I'll give you in charge."
''Yer can't," he said. "This is a free country, freedom is
my 'progative as well as yerself, Sir Thomas Kirby. I've
done nothing to annoy yer, have I?"
I shrugged my shoulders.
"But you have been following me."
His manner changed at once.
"Ever since you left Piccadilly, Sir Thomas, waiting my
opportunity. I'm a private inquiry agent by profession,
though this job of shadowing you has nothing to do with
the office that employs me. I have a yoimg friend in my
house who's turned up sudden and mysterious, a young
friend I lost sight of many weeks ago. He says you'll come
to him at once if I could only get you alone and be certain
that no one saw me speak to you. His instructions were to
follow you about until such an opportunity as this arose,
and all the time I was to be certain that no one else was
following you. I have ascertained that all right."
He put his head close to mine and I felt his hot breath
upon my cheek.
"It's Mr. William Rolston, Sir Thomas," he said. "I'm
not in his confidence, though I have long admired his abili-
ties and predicted a great future for him. He's come to
114 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
me in distress and I am doing what I can to 'elp 'im — tliis
being a day when they've no job for me at the office."
"Good Lord! why didn't you speak to me this morning,
if you've been following me all day?"
He shook his head.
"Wouldn't have done. Mr. Rolston's instructions was
different and he has his reasons, though I'm not in his
confidence. I've done it out of admiration for his talents,
and no doubt some day he'll be in a position to pay me for
"Pay you, you idiot!" I could have taken him by the
throat and shaken the fool. "Mr. Rolston knows very
well that he can command any money he chooses. He's
a member of my staff."
We were now walking along together towards West-
"That's as may be," said my seedy friend, "but 'e 'adn't
a brass farthing this morning, and come to that, Sir Thomas,
if you'd got into another blinking taxi, you'd have snookered
"Where do you live?" I asked impatiently.
"Not far from where you 'ad your lunch. Sir Thomas.
15, Imperial Mansions, Royal Road, Stepney."
"It's a magnificent address," I said, as I held out my stick
for a cab.
"It's a block o' workmen's buildings, reely," he replied
gloomily, "and in the thick of the Chinese quarter, which
makes it none too savory. But an Englishman's house is his
castle and he has the 'progative to call it what he likes."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 115
Back east we went again and in half an hour I was
mounting interminable stone steps to a door nearly at the
top of ''Imperial Mansions," which my guide, who during
our drive had introduced himself to me as Mr. Herbert
Sliddim, announced as his home. In a dingily furnished
room, sitting on a molting, plush sofa I saw the curious
little man to whom I had so taken months ago. He was
shabby almost to beggary. His face was pale and worn,
which gave him an aspect of being much older than I had
imagined him. But his irrepressible ears stood out as of
yore and his eyes were not dimmed.
"Hallo," I said, "glad to see you, Mr. Rolston, though
you've neglected us at the office for a long time. Your
arrears of salary have been mounting up."
His hand was trembling as I gripped it.
"Oh, Sir Thomas," he said, "do j^ou really mean that I
am still on the staff?"
"Of course you are, my dear boy."
I turned to Mr. Sliddim.
"Now I wonder," I said, "if I might have a little quiet
conversation with Mr. Rolston."
"By all means," he replied. "I'll wait in the court-
"I shouldn't do that, Mr. Sliddim. Why not take a tour
I led him out of the room into the passage which served
for hall, pressed a couple of pounds into his hand and had
the satisfaction of seeing him leap away down the stairs
like an antelope.
ii6 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"That's all right," said Rolston. "Now he'll go and
get blotto, it's the poor devil's failing. Still, he'll be
I sat down, passed my cigarette case to Rolston, and
waited for him to begin.
He sort of came to attention.
"I was rung up. Sir Thomas, at your flat — at least your
valet was — and told to come to the office of the Evening
Special at once."
"I know, go on."
"I dressed as quickly as I could, ran down the stairs
and jumped into the waiting cab. The door banged and
we started off. The engines must have been running, for
we went away like a flash. There was some one else
sitting there. A hand clapped over my mouth and an arm
round my body. I couldn't move or speak. Then the thumb
of the hand did something to the big nerves behind my
ear. It's an Oriental trick and I had just realized it when
something wet and sweet was pressed over my mouth and
nose, and I lost all consciousness.
"When I woke up I found myself in a fair-sized room,
lit by a skylight high up in the roof. There was a bed,
a table, a chair, and various other conveniences, and I
hadn't the slightest idea where I could be. My head ached
and I felt bruised all over, so I drank a glass of water,
crawled back into the bed and slept. When I woke again
there was an affable Chink sitting by my side, who spoke
quite good English.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 117
'* 'You will,' he said, 'be kept here for some time in
durance, yess. It's an unfortunate necessity, yess.'
''I heard on all sides familiar noises. I knew in a mo-
ment what had happened. I had been brought back to the
works at the base of the three towers."
''AH this fits in very well with what I now know, Rolston,
I'll tell you everything in a minute, but I ■ want to hear
your story first."
"Very good, Sir Thomas. For over three months I've
been kept a prisoner at Richmond. I wasn't badly treated.
I had anything I liked to eat and drink, any books to read
— tobacco, a bath — everything but newspapers, which were
rigidly denied me. I wasn't kept entirely to my prison
room. I was allowed to go out and take exercise within
the domain surrourded by the great thirty- foot wall, though
I was never let to roam about as I wished. There was
always a big Chinese coolie with a leaded cane attending
me, a man that only spoke a few words of English.
"Now, Sir Thomas, please remember this. From first
to last none of my jailers knew that I understood Chinese.
And none of them knew or suspected that I had been among
the workmen before, in order to get materials for the scoop
with which I came to you."
I saw the value of that at once.
"Good for you, Rolston; now please continue,"
"Well, Sir Thomas, I kept my eyes and ears very wide
open and I learnt a lot. Things were being prepared with
a feverish activity of which the people outside had not the
ii8 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
slightest idea. I found that round the base of the towers,
in the miniature park inclosed by the high wall, there were
already magnificent vegetable gardens in active being.
There were huge conservatories which must have been set
up when the towers w^ere only a few hundred feet high, now
full of the rarest flowers and shrubs. In my walks, I saw
a miniature poultry farm, conducted on the most up-to-
date methods; there was a dairy, with four or five cows —
already this part of the huge inclosure was assuming a rural
aspect. It must have been planned and started nearly two
"You asked questions, I suppose?"
"Any amount, as innocently as I possibly could. I got
very little out of my captors in reply. Your Chinaman
is the most secretive person in the world. But, I heard them
talking among themselves; and I was amazed at the calcu-
lated organization which had been going on without cessa-
tion from the beginning.
"It all fitted in exactly with what I told you at the
Special office. It was as though Mr. Morse was planning
a little private world of his own, which would be inde-
pendent of everything outside."
"And about the towers themselves?"
"It will take me hours to tell you. In one quarter of
the inclosure there are great dynamo sheds — an electric in-
stallation inferior to nothing else of its kind in the world.
The great lifts which rise and fall in the towers are electric.
Heating, lighting, artificial daylight for the conservatories —
all are electric.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 119
"Where I was kept," he went on, "was nearly a quarter
of a mile from the engineering section, but I knew that it
hummed with extraordinary activity night and day. I dis-
covered that structural buildings of light steel were pouring
in from America, that an army of decorators and painters
was at work; vans of priceless Oriental furniture and hang-
ings were arriving from all parts of the world, rare flowers
and shrubs also. Sir Thomas, it was as though the Uni-
verse was being searched for wonders — all to be concen-
"This went on and on till I lost count of the days and
lived in a sort of dream, kindly treated enough, allowed to
see many secret things, and always with a sense that be-
cause this was so, I should never again emerge into the real
"I can understand that, Rolston. Every word you say
interests me extremely."
"I'll come to the present. Sir Thomas. You can ask me
any details that you like afterwards. A few days ago
everything was speeded up to extraordinary pitch. Then,
late one night, there was a great to-do, and in the morning
I learned that Mr. Morse and his family had arrived, and
that they were up at the top. I have found out since that
this was the fourteenth of September."
"The fourteenth!" I cried.
"Yes, Sir Thomas, the fourteenth. The next day, it was
late in the afternoon and the sun was setting, two China-
men came into my room, tied a handkerchief over my eyes
and led me out. I was put into one of the little electric
120 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
railways — open cars which run all over the inclosure — and
taken to the base of the towers.
"I don't know which tower it was, but I was led into
a lift and a long, slow ascent began. I knew that I was
in one of the big carrying lifts that take a long time to
do the third of a mile up to the City, not one of the quick-
running elevators which leap upwards from stage to stage
for passengers and arrive at the top in a comparatively short
space of time.
"When the lift stopped they took off the handkerchief
and I found myself in a great whitewashed barn of a place
which was obviously a storeroom. There were bales of
stuff, huge boxes and barrels on every side.
"The men who had brought me up were just rough
Chinese workmen from Hong Kong, but a door opened
and a Chink of quite another sort came in and took me
by the arm.
"You see, Sir Thomas," he explained, "to the ordinary
Englishman one Chinaman is just like another, but my expe-
rience in the East enables me to distinguish at once.
"The newcomer was of a very superior class, and he led
me out of the storeroom, across a swaying bridge of latticed
steel to a little rotunda. As we passed along, I had a
glimpse of the whole of London, far, fa'r below. The
Thames was like a piece of glittering string. Everything
else were simply patches of gray, green, and brown.
"We went into the cupola and a tiny lift shot us up
like a bullet until it stopped with a clank and I knew that
I was now upon the highest platform of all.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 121
"But I could see nothing, for we simply turned down
a long corridor lighted by electricity and softly carpeted,
which might have been the corridor of one of the great
hotels far down below in town.
"My conductor, who wore pince-nez and a suit of dark
blue alpaca and who had a charming smile, stopped at a
door, rapped, and pushed me in.
"I found myself in a room of considerable size. It was
a library. The walls were covered with shelves of old oak,
in which there were innumerable books. A Turkey carpet,
two or three writing-tables — and Mr. Gideon Morse, whom
I had never spoken to, but had seen driving in Hyde Park,
sat there smoking a cigar.
"I might have been in the library of a country house,
except for two things. There were no windows to this
large and gracious room. It was lit from above, like a
billiard-room — domed skylights in the roof. But the light
that came down was not a light like anything I had ever
seen. It lit up every detail of the magnificent and stately
place, but it was new — 'the light that never was on earth
or sea.' It was just that that made me realize where I was
— two thousand three hundred feet up in the air, alone
with Gideon Morse, who had snatched me out of life three
"I know Mr. Morse, Rolston. What impression did he
make on you?"
"For a moment he stunned me. Sir Thomas. I knew
I was in the presence of a superman. All that I had heard
about him, all the legends that surrounded his name, the
122 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
fact of this stupendous sky city in which I was — the ease
with which he had stretched out his hand and made me
a prisoner, all combined to produce awe and fear."
"Yes, go on."
"I saw two other things — I think I did. One was that
the man's sanity is trembling in the balance. The other
that if ever a human being lives and moves and has his
being in deadly temporal fear, Gideon Mendoza Morse is
The words rang out in that East-end room with prophetic
force. It was as though a brilliant light was snapped on
to illumine a dark chamber in my soul.
"What did he say to you, Rolston?"
"He was suavity and kindness itself. He said that he
immensely regretted the necessity for secluding me so long.
'But of course I shall make it up to you. You're a young
man, Mr. Rolston, only just commencing your career. A
little capital would doubtless assist that career, in which
I may say I have every belief. Shall we say that you leave
Richmond this afternoon with a solatium of five hundred
" 'A thousand would suit me better,' I said.
"He shrugged his shoulders, and suddenly smiled at
" 'Very well,' he said, 'let it be a thousand pounds.'
" 'Of course without prejudice, Mr. Morse.'
" 'Please explain yourself.'
" 'You've kidnaped me. You've also committed an of-
fense against the law of England — a criminal offense for
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 123
which you will have to suffer. Perhaps you don't realize
that if you built your house miles further up, if you man-
aged to nearly reach the moon, British justice would reach
you at last.'
"He shook his head sadly.
" 'To that point of view, I hardly agree, Mr. Rolston. I
am quite unable to purchase British justice, but I can put
such obstacles in its way that could — '
"He suddenly stopped there, lit a little brown cigarette,
came up and patted me on the shoulder.
" 'Child,' he said, 'you are clever, you are original, I
like you. But have a sense of proportion, and remember
that you have no choice in this matter. I will give you the
money you want on condition that you go away and bring
no action whatever against me. If not — '
" 'If not, sir?'
" 'Well, you will have to stay here, that's all. You won't
be badly treated. You can be librarian if you like, but you
will never see the outside world again.'
" 'May I have a few hours to consider, sir?'
" 'A month if you like,' he said, pressing a bell upon his
"The same bland young Chinaman led me out of the
library and down to the storeroom in the lift. I was blind-
folded, and descended to the ground.
"There I met a man whom I had seen two or three times
during the last three days, a great seven-foot American
with arms like a gorilla, a thing called 'Boss Mulligan,'
whom I had gathered from the conversation of my Chinese
124 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
friends, had now arrived to take charge of the whole city —
a sort of head policeman and guard.
" 'Sonny,' he said, 'I've had a 'phone down from the top
in regard to you. Now don't you be a short sport. You've
been made a good offer. You grip it and be like fat in
lavender. My advice to you is to wind a smile round your
neck and depart with the dollars. I can see you're full of
pep and now you've got fortune before you. See that
pavilion over there?'
"He pointed to where a little gaudily painted house
nestled under one of the great feet of the first tower.
" 'That's my mansion. You wander about for an hour
or so and come there and say you agree to the boss's terms
— we'll take your word for it. Upon the word "Yes," I'll
hand you out at the gate and you can go to Paris for a
" 'I'll think it over,' I said.
" 'Do so, and don't be a life-everlasting, twenty-four-
hours-a-day, dyed-in-the-wool damn fool.'
"It was getting dusk. I was in a new part of the inclosed
park. He let me go without any watchful Chinese attend-
ant at my heels, and I strolled off with my head bent down
as if deep in thought.
"I'd got an hour, and I think I made the best use of it.
I hurried along under the shadow of the towers, past shrub-
beries, artificial lakes, summer-houses and little inclosed
rose-gardens until I was far away from Mr. Mulligan. Here
and there I passed a patient Chinese gardener or some
hurrying member of Morse's little army. But nobody
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 125
stopped me or interfered with me. For the first time since
my captivity I was perfectly free.
"To cut a long story short, Sir Thomas, I came to a
rectangle in the great encircling wall, which at that point
was thirty feet high. The parapet at the top was obviously
being repaired, for there was a ladder right up, pails of mor-
tar, bricklayers' tools, and a coil of rope for binding scaf-
folding. I nipped up the ladder, carrying the rope after
me, fixed it at the top, slid down easily enough, and in a
quarter of an hour was in Richmond station. I didn't dare
to go back to my old rooms because I was sure there would
be a secret hue and cry after me. I thought of my old
friend, Mr. Sliddim, traveled to Whitechapel with my last
pence, and here I am."
"Still a member of my staff?"
"If you please, Sir Thomas."
"Ready for anything?"
"Anything and everjrthing."
"Then come with me to Piccadilly — if they look for you
there again we shall be prepared."
I HAVE to tell of a brief interlude before I got to work in
The very day after the rediscovery of Rolston I fell ill.
The strain had been too much, a severe nervous attack was
the result, and my vet. ordered me to the quietest watering-
place in Brittany that I could find. I protested, but in
vain. The big man told me what would happen if I didn't
go, so I went, faute-de-mieux, and took Rolston with me.
I acquainted Arthur Winstanley and Pat Moore of my
movements by letter, and I engaged the seedy Mr. Sliddim
to abide permanently in Richmond and to forward me a
full report of all he observed, and of all rumors, connected
with the City in the Clouds. When I had subscribed to
a press-cutting agency to send me everything that appeared
in print relating to Gideon Morse and his fantastic home,
I felt I had done everything possible until I should be re-
stored to health.
Of my month in Pont Aven I shall say nothing save
that I lived on fine Breton fare, walked ten miles a day,
left Rolston — who proved the most interesting and stimu-
lating companion a man could have — to answer all my let-
ters, and went to bed at nine o'clock at night.
Heartache, fear for Juanita, occasional fits of fury at
my own inaction and impotence? Yes, all these were with
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 127
me at times. But I crushed them down, forced myself to
think as little as possible of her, in order that when once
restored to health and full command of my nerves, I might
begin the campaign I had planned. You must picture me
therefore, one afternoon at the end of October, arriving from
Paris by the five o'clock train, dispatching Rolston to Pic-
cadilly with the luggage, and driving myself to Captain
Moore's quarters at Knightsbridge Barracks.
I had summoned a meeting of our league, which we had
so fancifully named "Santa Hermandad" — a fact that was
to have future consequences which none of us ever dreamed
of — by telegram from Paris.
Pat and Arthur were awaiting me in the former's com-
fortable sitting-room, A warm fire burned on the hearth
as we sat down to tea and anchovy toast.
I had been in more or less frequent communication with
both of them during my sick leave, and when we began
to discuss the situation we dispensed with preliminaries.
It was Pat who, so to speak, took the chair, leaning
against an old Welsh sideboard of oak, crowded with polo
and shooting cups, shields for swordsmanship and other
''Now, you two," he said, "we know certain facts, and
we have arrived at certain conclusions.
"First of all, as to the facts. Miss Morse is as good
as engaged to Tom here. Arthur and I are 'also ran,' Fact
number one. Fact number two, she has been suddenly
and forcibly taken away from the world, and is in great
distress of mind. That so, brother leaguers?"
128 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
We murmured assent.
"Now for our deductions. Morse, divil take him! has
some deadly important reason for this fantastic, spectacular
show of his. The public see it as the fancy of a chap who's
so much money he don't know what to do with it, a fellow
that's exhausted all sensation and is now trying for a new
one. Let 'em think so! But we know — ^here in this room —
a long sight more than the general public knows. Tom and
that young fly-by-night, with the red hair and the stained-
glass-window ears, he's been cartin' about with him, have
got behind the scenes."
Pat's face hardened.
"We alone are certain that the man Morse, for all his
equanimity and the mask he has presented to London dur-
ing the season, has been living under the influence of some
dirty, cowardly fear or other!"
"Fear, if you like, Pat, but I don't think it is probably
dirty, or even cowardly. You .get Miss Morse."
"Perhaps you're right. At any rate, if Gideon Morse
is really menaced by some great danger, what cleverer trick
could he have played? To let the world suppose that it's
his whim and fancy to live like a rook at the top of an
elm tree, when all the time he's providing against the pos-
sibility of annihilation, that's a stroke of genius."
"Good for you, Pat," said Arthur with a wink to me,
"you're on the track of it."
"Indeed, and I think I am," said the big guardsman sim-
ply, "and here's the cunning of it, the supreme sense of
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 129
self-preservation. If that man Morse is in fear of his life,
and in fear for his daughter's too, he couldn't have in-
vented a more perfect security than he has done. From
all we know, from all Tom has told us, no one can get at
them now but an archangel!"
Then Arthiu: spoke.
"For my part," he said, "as I'm vowed to the service,
I'm going straight to Brazil and I'm going to find out every-
thing I can about the past life of Gideon Morse. I speak
Spanish as you know. I think I'm fairly diplomatic, and
in a little more than a couple of months I'll return with
big news, if I'm not very much mistaken. And there's
always the cable too. We are pledged to Tom, but beyond
that we're united together to save the little lady from evil
or from harm. To-morrow I sail for Rio."
"And I," I said, "have already made my plans. To-
morrow I disappear absolutely from ordinary life. Only
two people in London will know where I am, and what I
am doing — Preston, my servant in Piccadilly, and one other
whom I shall appoint at the offices of my paper. While
Arthur is gathering information which will be of the great-
est use, I must be working on the spot. I imagine there
isn't much time to lose."
"And what'll I do?" asked Pat Moore.
"You, Pat, will stay here, lead your ordinary life, and
hold yourself ready for anything and everything when I
call upon you. And as far as I can see," I concluded,
"there will be a very pressing necessity for your help be-
fore much more water has flowed under Richmond Bridge."
130 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
There was an end of talking; we were all in deadly
earnest. We grasped hands, arranged a system of commu-
nication, and then I and Arthur went down the stone steps,
across the parade ground, and said good-by at Hyde Park
"You—?" he said.
"You will see in the papers that Sir Thomas Kirby is
gone for a voyage round the world."
"And as a matter of fact?"
"I think I won't give you any details, old man. My plan
is a very odd one indeed. You wouldn't quite under-
stand, and you'd think it extraordinary — as indeed it
"It can't be more fantastic than the whole bitter busi-
ness," he said, and his voice was full of pain.
I saw, for the first time, that he had grown older in
the last few months. The boyishness in him which had
been one of his charms, was passing away definitely and
forever. He was hard hit, as we all were, and I reproached
myself for my egotism. After all, if there was any hope
at all, I was the most fortunate. Arthur and stanch old
Pat Moore were giving up their time, their energies, to
bring about a conclusion from which I alone should benefit.
We were crossing the Green Park as this was borne in
upon me. It was a dull, gray afternoon, rapidly deaden-
ing into evening. There seemed no color anywhere. But
when I thought of the faithful, uncomplaining, even joyous
adherence to our oath, when I understood for the first time
how these two friends of mine were laboring without hope
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 131
of reward, then I saw, as in a vision, the wonder and sacred-
ness of unselfish love.
"Arthur," I said, as we were about to part at Hyde Park
corner, "God forgive me, but I believe your love for her
is greater than mine."
"Don't say that, Tom. When we threw the dice, if
the Queen had come to me you would be doing what I am
doing now, or what Pat is ready to do."
Well, of course, that was true, but when we gripped
hands and turned our backs upon each other, I walked
slowly towards my flat with a hanging head.
For one brief moment I had caught a glimpse of that
love which Dante speaks of — that love "which moves earth
and all the stars" — and in the presence of so high a thing
I was bowed and humbled.
Let me also be worthy of such company, was my prayer.
At ten o'clock the next morning I stood in my bedroom
with Preston in attendance. Preston's face, usually a well-
bred mask which showed nothing of his feelings, was gravely
"Shall I do, Preston?" I asked.
"Yes, Sir Thomas, you'll doy he said regretfully, "but I
must say. Sir Thomas, that — "
"Shut up, Preston, you've said quite enough. Am I the
real thing or not?"
"Certainly not, Sir Thomas," he said with spirit. "How
could you be the real thing? But I'm bound to say you
132 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"You mean that your experience of a small but prosper-
ous suburban public-house, visited principally by small
tradespeople, leads you to suppose that I might pass very
well for the landlord of such a place?"
"I am afraid it does. Sir Thomas," he replied with a gulp,
as I surveyed myself once more in the long mirror of my
I was aboul six feet high in my boots, fair, with a ruddy
countenance and somewhat fleshy face — not gross I believe,
but generally built upon a generous scale.
That morning I had shaved off my mustache, had my
hair arranged in a new way — that is to say, with an oily
curl draping over the forehead — and I had very carefully
penciled some minute crimson veins upon my nose. I
ought to say that I have done a good deal of amateur act-
ing in my time and am more or less familiar with the con-
tents of the make-up box.
[Note. — My master, Sir Thomas Kirby, has long been
known as one of the handsomest gentlemen in society. He
has a full face certainly, but entirely suited to his build
and physical development. Of course, when he shaved off
a mustache that was a model of such adornments, it did
alter his appearance considerably. — ^Henry Preston.]
Instead of the high collar of use and wont, I wore a low
one, permanently attached to what I believe is known as
a "dicky" — that is to say, a false shirt front which reaches
but little lower than the opening of the waistcoat. My tie
was a made-up four-in-hand of crimson satin — not too new.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 133
my suit of very serviceable check with large side-pockets,
purchased second-hand, together with other oddments, from
a shop in Covent Garden. I also wore a large and massive
gold watch-chain, and a diamond ring upon the little fin-
ger of my right hand.
That was all, yet I swear not one of my friends would
have known me, and what was more important still, I was
typical without having overdone it. No one in London,
meeting me in the street, would have turned to look twice
at me. You could not say I was really disguised — in the
true meaning of the word — and yet I was certainly entirely
transformed, and with my cropped hair, except for the
"quiff" in front, I looked as blatant and genial a bounder
as ever served a pint of "sixes."
Preston had left the room for a moment and now came
back to say that Mr. W. W. Power had arrived,
W. W. Power was the youngest partner in a celebrated
firm of solicitors, Power, Davids and Power — a firm that
has acted for my father and myself for more years than
I can remember.
Under his somewhat effeminate exterior and a languid
manner, young Power is one of the sharpest and cleverest
fellows I know, and, what's .more, one that can keep his
mouth shut under any circumstances.
I went into the dining-room, hoping to make him start.
Not a bit of it. He merely put up his eyeglass and said
laconically: "You'll do, Sir Thomas" — not more than two
years ago he had been an under-graduate at Cambridge!
"You think so, Power?"
134 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
He nodded and looked at his watch.
"All right then, we'll be off," I said, and Preston called
a taxi, on which were piled a large brass-bound trunk and
a shabby portmanteau — also recent purchases, and with the
name H. Thomas painted boldly upon them. Preston's
Christian name by the way is Henry and I had borrowed
it for the occasion.
I got into the cab with a curious sensation that some
one might be looking on and discover me. Power seated
himself by my side with no indication of thought at all,
and we rolled away westward.
"Nothing remains," he said, "but to complete the docu-
ments of sale. Everything is ready, and I have the money
in notes in my pocket. The solicitor of the retiring pro-
prietor will be in attendance, and the whole thing won't
take more than twenty minutes. Newby, the present man,
will then step out and leave you in undisturbed possession."
"Very good, Power, and thank you for your negotiations.
Seven thousand pounds seems a lot of money for a little
hole like that."
"It isn't really. You see the place is freehold and the
house is free also. It's not under the dominion of any
brewer, and when your purpose in being there is over, I'll
guarantee to sell it again for the same money, probably a
few hundreds more. As an investment it's sound enough."
He relapsed into silence and we rattled through Ham-
mersmith on our way to Richmond. I was curious about
this imperturbable young man, whom I knew rather well.
"Aren't you curious. Power," I said, "to know why I'm
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 135
doing this extraordinary, unprecedented thing? I can trust
you absolutely I know, but haven't you asked yourself what
the deuce I'm up to?"
He favored me with a pale smile.
"My dear Sir Thomas," he replied, "if you only knew
what extraordinary things society people do do, if you
knew a tenth of what a solicitor in my sort of practice
knows, you wouldn't think there was anything particularly
strange in your little freak."
Confound the cub! I could have punched him in the
jaw. I knew his assurance was all pose. Still it was
admirable in its way and I burst into hearty laughter.
I had the satisfaction of seeing Master Power's cheeks
faintly tinged with pink!
On the slope of the hill, at what one might describe as
the back of the high wall which inclosed the grounds at
the foot of the three towers — that is to say, it was exactly
opposite the great central entrance, and I suppose nearly
quarter of a mile from it if one drew a straight line from
one to the other — was a crowded huddle of mean streets.
It was not in any sense a slum — nothing so picturesque —
small, drab, shabby, and respectable. In the center of this
area was a fair-sized, but old-fashioned, public-house, known
as the "Golden Swan." This was our destination, and in
a few minutes more we had climbed the hill and the taxi
stood at rest before a side door.
Opening it we entered. Power leading the way, and as
v/e approached some stairs I caught a glimpse of a little
plush-furnished bar to the left, where I could have sworn
136 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I saw the melanclioly Sliddim in company with a pewter
We waited for a moment or two in a long upstairs room.
The walls were covered with beasts, birds, and fishes, in
glass cases, all of which looked as if they ought to be de-
cently buried. Upon one wall was an immense engraving
framed in boxwood of the execution of Mary, Queen of
Scots, and upon a huge mahogany sideboard which looked
as if it had been built to resist a cavalry charge, was a
tray with hospitable bottles.
Then the door opened and a dapper little man with side
whiskers, the vendor's solicitor, came in, accompanied by
Mr. Newby, the retiring landlord himself.
Mr. Newby, dressed I was glad to notice, very much
as myself, only the diamond ring upon his finger was rather
larger, was a short, fat man of benevolent aspect, and I
should say suffering from dropsy. We shook hands heartily.
"Thirty years have I been landlord here," wheezed Mr.
Newby, "and now it's time the 'ouse was in younger 'ands.
Your respectability 'as been vouched for, Mr. Thomas — I
wouldn't sell to no low blackguard for twice the money —
and all I can say is, young feller, for you are a young feller
to me, you know — I 'ope you'll be as 'appy and prosperous
in the 'Golden Swan' as Emanuel Newby 'ave been."
I thought it was best to be a little awkward and bashful,
so I said very little while the lawyers fussed about with
title deeds, and 'at last the eventful moment came when
one does that conjuring trick in which the gentlemen of
the law take such infantile delight. 'Tut your finger here,
yes, on this red seal and say . . ."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 137
When it was all done and Mr. Newby had stowed away
seven thousand pounds in bank-notes in a receptacle over
his heart, we drank to the occasion in some remarkably
good champagne and then, v/ith a sigh, the ex-proprietor
announced his intention of being off.
''My luggage has preceded me," he said, "and I have
nothing to do now but retire, as I 'ave long planned, to the
city of my birth."
"And where may that be, Mr. Newby?" I asked po-
"The University City of Oxford," he replied, "which, if
you've not known intimate as I 'ave, you can never begin
to understand. There's an atmosphere there, Mr. Thomas,
but Lord, you won't be interested!" and he wheezed
The situation was not without humor.
When he had gone, together with his solicitor, Power
rang the bell.
"As you wish me to manage everything for you," he said,
"I have done so. Your entire ignorance of the liquor trade
will be compensated by the knowledge and devotion of the
assistant I have procured for you, after many inquiries.
His name is Whistlecraft, and he is an Honest Fool. He
won't rob you, though he'll probably diminish your profits
greatly by his stupidity — but as I understand, profit from
the sale of drinks isn't your object. He will obey orders
implicitly, without even trying to understand their reason,
and in short you couldn't have a better man for your
When Whistlecraft appeared I perfectly agreed with
138 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Power. He was a powerful fellow in shirt sleeves, aged
about thirty-five, with arms that could have felled an ox.
Had he shaved within the last three days he would have
been clean shaved, and his hair was polished to a mirror-
like surface with suet — I caught him doing it one day. I
never saw such calm on any human face. It was the tran-
quillity of an entire absence of intellect, a rich and per-
fect stupidity which nothing could penetrate, nothing dis-
turb. His eyes were dull as unclean pewter, without life
or speculation, and I knew at once that if I told him to
go down into the cellar, wait there till a hyena entered,
strangle it, skin it, and bring the pelt upstairs to me, he
would depart upon his errand without a word!
Power went away with the most conventional of hand-
shakes — we might have been parting in Pall Mall — and I
was left alone, monarch of all I surveyed.
"What's the staff beside you, Whistlecraft?" I asked.
"Mrs. Abbs, sir, cooks and sweeps up, sleeps out. Peter,
the odd-job boy, washes bottles and such, and that's
"Then at closing time, you and I are left alone in the
There was a loud and impatient knocking from some-
"I'd better go and serve, sir, hadn't I?" said Whistle-
craft — I found later his name was Stanley — and I let him
go at that.
I spent the next hour going over the premises from
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 139
cellar to roof and making many mental notes, for I had
come here with a definite purpose, and plans already
It was an extraordinary situation to be in. I sat in a
little private room behind the bar and every now and again
Stanley's idiot countenance appeared, and I had to go be-
hind the counter and be introduced to this or that regular
frequenter. I asked every one to have a drink, for the good
of the house, and trust I made a fair impression. They
all seemed quiet, respectable people enough, who knew each
In the evening I was greatly helped by Sliddim, who was
now a seasoned habitue of the "Golden Swan," and whom
from the moment of my arrival slipped into the position of
Master of the Ceremonies, which saved me a great deal of
It will be remembered that all the time that I was in
Brittany, Sliddim had been employed in my interests at
Richmond, Bill Rolston vouched absolutely for the man's
fidelity: had told me I could safely trust him in any way.
Accordingly, there was perhaps a little misgiving, I had
released him from his employment at the third-class de-
tective agency where he worked, and took him permanently
into my service. I may say at once, though he took no
prominent part in the great events which followed until
the very end, he was of considerable use to me and kept my
At closing time that night, Mrs. Abbs, the cook, having
spread a hot supper in the private room behind the bar
I40 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
and left, I called the potman in from his washing-up of
glass and bade him share the meal.
"Now I tell you what, Stanley," I said, when we had
filled our pipes, "in the tower inclosure there's a whole
colony of Chinks, isn't there?"
"Yes, sir; gardeners, stokers for the engines and such like.
They say as there isn't a white man among 'em, except
only the boss, and he's an Irishman."
"They don't always live inside that wall?" I jerked my
head towards a window which looked out into my back
yard, not a hundred feet away from the towering preci-
pice of brick which overshadowed the "Golden Swan," and
the surrounding houses.
"Oh, not by no means. They comes out when their
work's done in the evenings, though they goes back to sleep
and has to be in by a certain time. They do say," and
here something happened to Stanley's face which I after-
wards grew to recognize as a smile, "they do say as some
of the girls downtown are takin' up with 'em, seein' as they
dress well, and spend a lot of money."
"I suppose they have somewhere where they go?"
"It's mostly the 'Rising Sun' down by the station, I am
told. The boss there was a sailor and understands their
ways. He's given them a room to themselves."
I was perfectly aware of all this, but I had a special
motive for the present conversation.
"Now, it's come into my mind," I said, "that there's
a lot of custom going downtown that ought by rights to
come to the 'Golden Swan,' seeing that we are close at the
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 141
gates, so to speak, and I mean to do what I can to get
hold of it. A Chink's money is as good as anybody else's,
Stanley, that's my way of looking at it."
He chewed the cud of that idea for a minute or two
and then it dawned in the pudding of his mind.
"Why, yes," he said, in the voice of one who had made
a great discovery.
"Now, there's that room upstairs," I went on, "I shall
never use it. If we could get some of these Chinks to drop
in there of a night it would be good business."
"There's just one thing against it," said Stanley, "if
you'll pardon my speaking of it, sir. I'm willing to do
everything in reason, and I'm not afraid of work. But
I don't see as 'ow I can attend to both the saloon and
the four-ale bars if I'm to be going upstairs slinging drinks
to the Chinks."
"Of course you can't and I wasn't going to suggest it.
We must get an extra help — if we can get the Chinks to
use the house. We might have a barmaid."
He shook his head.
"It wouldn't work, sir; you'd have to get a new one
every week. A young woman can't resist a Chink and
they'd marry off like — "
Stanley was unable to think of a simile so he buried his
face in his pewter pot.
Really things were going very well for me.
"I believe you are right. Supposing I could get a young
fellow who was one of themselves and could speak their
lingo. There are lots to be picked up about the docks.
142 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I mean some quiet young Chink, who would attend to his
fellow-countrymen in the evening, and relieve you of a lot
of the washing-up and things of that sort during the day?"
Mr. Stanley Whistlecraft was not so stupid as to miss
the advantages of such a proposal as this.
"You've 'it on the very plan, sir," he said, "and especial
if he could wash up them thin glasses which the gentle-
men in the saloon bar like to 'ave, it would be a great
saving. I never could 'andle them things properly. You
put your fingers on 'em and they crack worse than eggs.
Pewters, I can polish with any man alive, pot mugs seldom
break, as likewise them thick reputed half-pints which will
break a man's 'ed open, as I've proved. But these Chinks
are as 'andy as any girl, and I think, sir, you've got 'old of
"I'll see about it in the morning. I've got a pal that
has a nice little house in the Mile End Road, and I believe
he could send me just the lad I want. Well, now you can
go to bed, Stanley. Everything locked up?"
"Then I'll put out the lights."
He bade me a gruff good-night and lurched heavily away.
I heard him ascending the stairs to his room at the back
of the house and then I was left alone.
The first thing I did was to turn down the sleeves of
my shirt and put on my coat. It isn't etiquette to sup in
your coat, I had gathered from Mr. Whistlecraft's custom
when he accepted my invitation.
Then I unlocked a drawer in which was a box of cigars
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 143
such as the "Golden Swan" had never known, and stretch-
ing out my legs, stared into the fire.
I was doing the wildest, maddest thing, but so far all
had gone well. I was, as it were, a solitary swimmer in
deep and dangerous waters, on the threshold of experiences
which I knew instinctively would transcend all those of
ordinary life. I was perfectly certain, something in my
inmost soul told me, that I was about to step into un-
known perils, and to contend with bizarre and sinister forces
of which I had no means of measuring the power or extent.
I don't mind admitting that on that first night in the
"Golden Swan," fate weighed heavily on me and I thought
I heard the muffled laughter of malignant things.
However, I was in for it now. I finished my cigar, went
into the bar and selected a certain bottle of whisky — the
excellent Stanley had warned me that this was the land-
lord's bottle and of a much more reputable quality than
that served to the landlord's guests. After a very moderate
"nightcap" I put on carpet slippers and went up to my
room, which I had chosen at the very top of the house. It
was a large attic, just under the roof, and in a few days
I proposed to make it more habitable with some new furni-
ture and decoration. Meanwhile, I had chosen it because,
in one corner, some wooden steps went up to a trap-door
which opened on to the roof, where there was a flat space
of some three yards square among the chimneys. Just be-
fore going up to bed I turned up the collar of my dressing-
gown, ascended the ladder, pushed open the trap-door and
stepped out on to the leads.
144 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS ■
It was a still, moonlight night. Looking over the roofs
of the houses I could see the Thames winding like a silver
ribbon far down below, a scene of utter tranquillity and
Then I wheeled round to be confronted with the great
black wall which rose several yards above me, within a
pistol shot of distance.
But my eye traveled up beyond that and was caught in
a colossal network of steel, so bold, towering and gigantic
in its nearness that it almost made me reel. I stared up
among the dark shadows and moonlit spaces till my eye
reached an altitude which I knew to be about the height
of the Golden Ball on the top of Saint Paul's Cathedral.
There the vision checked. I could see a blurr of low
buildings, a web of latticed galleries, and I knew that I
was looking only up at the very first stage of the City in
the Clouds, which must be lying bare to the moon some six-
teen hundred feet above.
I could see no more. The first stage barred all further
vision, though that in itself seemed terrible in its height
and majesty. So I closed my eyes and imagined only those
supreme heights where she must be sleeping.
"Good-night, Juanita," I murmured, and then, as I de-
scended into my room the words of the Psalmist came to
m.e and I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!"
On the afternoon of the next day the potman summoned
me from my private room with the information that there
was a young fellow from the Mile End Road to see me.
"Chinese?" I asked.
"Then it must be the lad come in answer to the tele-
gram I sent to my friend this morning. Show him in."
In a few moments the applicant for the situation entered.
He wore his oily black hair fairly short, like most of the
Chinamen employed at the towers, and had no pigtail; he
was dressed in European clothes. His high cheek bones,
with little slits of eyes above them, the stolid yellow face
and fine tapering fingers were typically Oriental as he glided
in, and his European clothes seemed to accentuate that air
of Eastern mystery that even the commonest Chinaman
carries about with him. He looked about five or six and
twenty and wore a thick gold ring in each ear which had
had the effect of dragging them away from the head.
I examined him carefully as to his qualities and he
answered in better English than most Chinamen attain to,
though with the guttural, clicking accent of his kind.
"Take him and let him wash up a few of the glasses,
Stanley, and ask him a few questions if you like, and if
you are satisfied with him I'll engage him."
146 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
In a quarter of an hour the Honest Fool returned to
express himself pleased with the young Asiatic's perform-
ances, and there and then I engaged him, Stanley showing
him the room in which he was to sleep. It was quite late
that night before I could be alone with the new assistant,
who, by the way, served in the saloon bar during the eve-
ning and was spoken of with commendation by Mr. Carter,
fish and green grocer; Mr, Mogridge, our principal news-
agent and tobacconist, and Mr. Abrahams, dealer in any-
thing, whose shop was labeled — really with great propriety
These gentlemen were my most constant patrons and
their word had weight, and it was endorsed by Mr. Slid-
dim, who slipped in about nine and in the position of a
friend of the landlord, had been received into our best circle.
It was Mr. Mogridge, a wit, who, just before closing time,
christened Ah Sing, the name of the new potman, "Ting-
A-Ling-A-Ling," the name which he retained to the end
of the chapter. I could hear my clients laughing for the
twentieth time as they went home and Mr. Carter's rich
bass: "Mogridge, I call that good. That's damned good,
Mogridge. Ting-A-Ling-A-Ling! Ha, ha, ha, ha!"
Ah Sing glided into my private room just as the upper
portion of the house began to tremble with the snores of
the Honest Fool. He put his fingers into his mouth and
vnthdrew two pads of composition such as dentists use,
with a sigh of relief. Immediately the high cheek bones
and the narrowness of the eyes disappeared, though even
then Bill Rolston would have passed for a Chinaman at a
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 147
glance, though when he removed the quills from his nose
and it ceased to be flat and distended, the likeness was less
"It's wonderful, Rolston," I said, shaking him warmly
by the hand. "It would deceive any one. Well, here we
are and now we can begin."
The lad was all fire and enthusiasm. He did me no
end of good, for the sordid environment, the appalling
meals — principally of pork served in great gobbets with
quantities of onions — which Mrs. Abbs provided for the
H.F., herself and me, and above all the overpowering,
incredible structure at hand which seemed, in its strength
and majesty, to laugh at the ant-like activities of such an
one as I, were beginning to depress and to tinge my hours
■with the quality of a fantastic dream.
But Rolston changed all that and we talked far on into
the night, planning, plotting, and arranging all the details
of our campaign.
"To-morrow," he said, "I'll paint the board to go over
the side door, in black and gilt Chinese lettering. As soon
as it's done, we will make one or two alterations to the
upstairs room, buy a gas urn with constant hot water and
some special tea which I know where to get. When that's
done, I'll start the game by going down to the 'Rising Sun'
and meeting the Chinese there."
"You are quite certain that you won't be discovered?"
"I think it's in the last degree improbable. Certainly
no one could find me out owing to my speech. That I can
assure you. Sir Thomas, and it's nearly all the battle. So
148 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
very, very few Europeans ever attain to good colloquial
Chinese that there would never be a doubt in any one
but I was what I seemed to be. I not only know the lan-
guage, but I know how these people think and most of
their customs. As far as disguise goes, I think it's good
enough to deceive any one. When I was a prisoner within
the inclosure, the Chinese who saw me were for the most
part coolies and laborers, engaged upon the works. All these
have now gone away forever and there's only the regular,
selected staff. Some of these of course must have seen me
as I was, but I don't think they will penetrate my get-up.
You see the whole shape of the face is altered to begin with,
and the coloring of hair and face has been done so well as
to defy detection. I certainly was afraid about my ears,"
and he grinned ruefully, *'but I saw the way out by having
them pierced and these rings put in. Most of the natives
from the Province of Yiin-Nan, where I come from, wear
these rings. The ones I have on at the present moment
are made of lead, and gilded. They have pulled my ears
right out of their ordinary shape."
"Good Lord!" I cried, astounded at the length to which
he had gone. "You're torturing yourself for me."
"Not a bit of it. Sir Thomas," he replied. "I — I rather
"And you think you will be able to get us a Chinese
"I am quite certain of it. First of all I don't suppose
I shall get the best class — I mean the upper and more con-
fidential servants who ascend the tower itself — for I un-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 149
derstand there's a very rigid system of grades. But little
by little they will come also. It will take us weeks, maybe
months, but it will be done."
"If it takes me half a lifetime I'll go through with it,"
I said savagely,
"My sentiments, also," he replied, lighting a cigarette.
"By the way, I hope you're not incommoded in any way
by my — er — odor!"
"Good Heaven! What do you mean?"
"The Chinaman smells quite different to the European,
though not necessarily impleasantly. It's taken me quite
a lot of trouble to attain the essential perfume!"
He grinned impishly as he said it, and there certainly
was a sort of stale, camphory smell, now he mentioned it.
"You're a great artist, Rolston, and I don't know what
I should do without you, oh. Mandarin from Yiin-Nan!"
"That's another point," he said quickly, "You wouldn't
guess why I'm supposed to come from Yiin-Nan, where I
actually did spend some years of my childhood?"
"Not in the least."
"It's the principal opium producing Province in China,"
he replied, with a quick look at me. "Now, Sir Thomas,
I've let the cat out of the bag. You see how I propose to
attract the Chinese here, and get into their confidence,"
A light flashed in upon me, and I took a long breath.
"But it would never do," I said, "If we were to start
an opium den in that room upstairs, we should have the
police in in a fortnight, and then the game would be up
150 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
He smiled superior.
"There will never be a single pipe of opium smoked in
the 'Golden Swan,' " he said. "Of that I can assure you.
That will be the very strictest rule that I shall make, but
I shall supply opium to the customers, in varying quanti-
ties, and at intervals, according to the need of each indi-
vidual case. It is almost impossible to bribe a Chinaman
with money — the better sort, that is, the picked and chosen
men who will be around Mr. Morse himself. But opium
is quite another thing, and besides they won't know they're
being bribed. I sat hours and hours working this thing
out and I'm confident it's the only way."
When he said that I realized that he spoke the truth,
but I confess that the idea startled and alarmed me.
"We shall be breaking the law, Rolston. We shall be
risking heavy fines and certain imprisonment if we're found
"To that I would say two things. Sir Thomas. First
of all, that no fine matters; and secondly, that I shouldn't
in the least mind doing six months if necessary. This great
game is worth more than that. But secondly, and you may
really put your mind at ease, we shall not be found out.
I have worked the thing out to a hair's breadth and my
system is so complete that discovery is utterly impossible."
"I oughtn't to let you risk it, though of course I shall
share equally if anything happens."
He disregarded this entirely.
"But the stuff," I said, "the opium itself, how will you
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 151
"I have made my plans here also. I shall have to pay
a price so enormous that I'm afraid it will stagger you,
Sir Thomas, but it's the only way in which I can get hold
of the right stuff. For what it is intrinsically worth, about
sixty pounds sterling, your east-end dealer will pay four-
hundred pounds, and make a big profit on it. I shall have
to pay nearly a thousand and I shall want double that money
— two thousand pounds."
He stared at me in anxiety.
"My dear Rolston," I said, "cheer up. My income is
over twenty thousand a year, and in normal times I don't
spend a third of it. Buy all the filth you want, and
Heaven send that it does the trick!"
"In two days," he said, "the 'Golden Swan' will house
two cases of the best 'red bricks' obtainable on the market
anywhere, for it's as much by the superior quality of what
I shall supply, as well as the fact of being able to supply
it, that I depend. Of course, you'll get nearly all the
"Confound it, no, that's going too far. We'll send all
the abominable profits to the Richmond Hospital anony-
We talked until the fire was out and the gray wintry
dawn began to steal in through the dirty windows of the
bar beyond, and when all our plans were laid with meticu-
lous care I went to bed but not to sleep, assailed by a
thousand doubts and fears.
... In a week or two the upstairs room began to be fre-
quented by silent-footed yellow men, who came and went
152 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
unobtrusively. Whenever any of them chanced to meet
me I was greeted with a profound obeisance which was
rather disconcerting at first, but my conversation was lim-
ited to a mere greeting or farewell. Most of these men
spoke pigeon English, but I had little or nothing to say to
them of set purpose. It had been arranged between Rol-
ston and myself that I was to be represented as a good-
natured fool, who mattered very little in any way.
For his part, the pretended Ah Sing was up and down
the stairs a dozen times every evening. He was never
once suspected, his influence and importance in the lives
of these aliens grew every day. But it was a long business,
a long and weary business, in which at first hardly any
progress towards our aim could be discerned.
"It's no use being discouraged. Sir Thomas," Rolston
would say, "we're getting on famously."
"And the opium?" — somehow I wasn't very keen on dis-
cussing that aspect of the question.
"I'm employing it most judiciously, selling it in very
small quantities, and of course not a grain is ever smoked
or consumed in any way upon these premises. That's thor-
oughly understood by every one, and you need not have
the slightest doubt but that the secret will be rigidly kept.
At present the men frequenting the house are nearly all of
the upper coolie class. That is to say, they are the gar-
deners, stokers of the power house, sweepers, and so forth.
But, quite recently a better class of man has made his
appearance. There's a young, semi-Europeanized electrician
who has been once or twice. Moreover, I have gained a
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 153
great point. I have become acquainted with Kwang-su,
the keeper of the inclosure gate."
"That's certainly something," I replied, recalling the
figure of the gigantic Chinaman in question, which was
familiar to most of the residents beneath the wall. "He's a
"At one time he was headsman of Yangtsun, and they say
a most finished expert with the sword," Rolston remarked
with a grin. "All I know about him is that he'd sell his
soul for the black smoke, and regards me as a most valu-
able addition to the neighborhood. In a fortnight or so,
I am pretty certain I shall be able to pass in and out of
the grounds pretty much as I like, and then a great move
in our game will have been accomplished. As an undoubted
Chinaman and as a confidential purveyer of opium, I shall
soon have complete freedom below the towers."
"But what about the great prizefighter, Mulligan?"
"He has nothing to do with the park, as they call all
the grounds around the towers. Now that the building is
finished his functions are up in the air, and I gather that
he lives on the third stage, just beneath the City itself,
as a sort of watch-dog. The Asiatics are entirely managed
by their own leaders, appointed by Morse himself."
It was as Bill predicted. In a very short space of time
he was away from the "Golden Swan" as much as he was
in it, and every day he gathered more and more informa-
tion about the tower and its mistress — information which
was carefully noted down in the silence of the night, so
that no detail should be forgotten.
154 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Of course the fact that my hotel had become a haunt
of the yellow men neither escaped the notice of the neigh-
bors, nor of the police. The former were easily dealt with,
and especially my patrons. Mr. Mogridge, having invented
'Ting-A-Ling-A-Ling," was disposed to look upon the
"Chinks" with genial patronage, and his self-importance
was gratified by the low bows with which they always
greeted him as they passed to their club-room above. The
lead of Mr. Mogridge was followed by others in the saloon
bar, and Sliddim tactfully kept everything running smoothly.
As for the police, they paid me one visit or two, were
shown everything and were perfectly satisfied that the house
was being conducted with propriety — as indeed it was.
The yellow men neither gambled nor got drunk, that was
perfectly obvious. There was never a suspicion of opium
from first to last, nor was there a single instance of a brawl
or a fight. Indeed the local police-inspector, an excellent
fellow with whom I had many a talk, expressed himself
as being both surprised and delighted at the way in which
I had the aliens in hand.
Nearly two months had gone by, and I was curbing the
raging fires of impatience and longing as well as I could
when two incidents occurred which greatly precipitated
Rolston came to me one day in a state of great excite-
At last, he said, he was beginning to become acquainted
with some of the actual officials of the towers — at last,
quite separate from those who worked below. They were
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 155
interested, or beginning to be so, and he urged me at once
to open a smaller, inner room as a select meeting-place for
such of them as he could inveigle to the "Golden Swan."
We did so at once, hanging the walls with a drapery of
black worked with golden dragons, which I bought in Regent
Street, a Chinese lantern of copper hanging from the ceil-
ing, and around the wall we placed low couches. Here, in
twos and threes, but in slowly increasing numbers, a dif-
ferent type of Oriental began to assemble, Ah Sing attend-
ing to all their wants, ingratiating himself in every possible
way, and keeping his extremely useful ears wide open —
very wide open indeed.
It was now that tiny fragments of personal gossip — more
precious to me than rubies — began to filter through. I had
established no communication with the City in the Clouds as
yet, but I seemed to hear the distant murmur of voices
through the void.
One evening about eight o'clock I felt cramped and un-
utterably bored. I felt that nothing could help me but
a long walk and so, with a word to the Honest Fool, Slid-
dim and Rolston, I took my hat and stick and started out.
It was a brilliant moonlight night, calm, still, and with
a white frost upon the ground, as I descended the terrace
and made my way down to the side of the river. Here
and there I passed a few courting couples; the hum of
distant London and the rumbling of trains was like the
ground swell of a sea, but peace brooded over everything.
The trees made black shadows like Chinese ink upon silver,
and, in the full moonlight it was bright enough to read.
156 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
When I had walked a mile or so, resisting a certain temp-
tation as well as I could, I stopped and turned at last.
There, a mile away behind me, yet seeming as if it was
within a stone's throw, was the huge erection on the hill.
Every detail of the lower parts was clear and distinct as an
architectural drawing, the intricate lattice-work of enormous
cantilevers and girders seemed etched on the inside of a
great opal bowl. I can give you no adequate description
of the immensity, the awe-inspiring, almost terror-inducing
sense of magnitude and majesty. I have stood beside the
Pyramids at night, I have crossed the Piazza of Saint
Peter's at Rome under the rays of the Italian moon, and
I have drunk coffee at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris,
but not one of these experiences approached what I felt
now as I surveyed, in an ecstasy of mingled emotions, this
monstrous thing that brooded over London.
The eye traveled up, onward and forever up until at
length, not hidden by clouds now but a faint blur of white,
blue, gold, and tiny twinkling lights, hung in the empyrean
the far-off City of Desire.
Could she hear the call of my heart? God knows it
seemed loud and strong enough to me! Might she not
be, even at this moment, a lovelier Juliet, leaning over some
gilded gallery and wondering where I was?
"Was ever a woman so high above her lover before?"
I said, and laughed, but my laughter was sadness, and my
longing, pain unbearable.
. . . There was a slight bend in the tow-path where I
stood, caused by some out-jutting trees, and from just
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS i57
below I suddenly heard a burst of loud and brutal laughter,
followed by a shrill cry. It recalled me from dreamland
at once and I hurried round the projection to come upon
a strange scene. Two flash young bullies with spotted
handkerchiefs around their throats and ash sticks in their
hands were menacing a third person whose back was to the
river. They were sawing the air with their sticks just in
front of a thin, tall figure dressed in what seemed to be a
sort of long, buttoned black cassock descending to the feet,
and wearing a skull cap of black alpaca. Beneath the skull
cap was a thin, ascetic face, ghastly yellow in the moon-
. . . One of the brutes lunged at the man I now saw
to be a Chinese of some consequence, lunged at him with
a brutal laugh and filthy oath. The Chinaman threw up his
lean arms, cried out again in a thin, shrill scream, stepped
backwards, missed his footing and went souse into the river.
In a second the current caught him and began to whirl
him away over towards the Twickenham side. It was obvi-
ous that he could not swim a stroke. There was a clatter
of hob-nailed boots and bully number one was legging it
down the path like a hare. I had just time to give bully
number two a straight left on the nap which sent him
down like a sack of flour, before I got my coat off and
Wow! but it was icy cold. For a moment the shock
seemed to stop my heart, and then it came right again
and I struck out heartily. It didn't take long to catch
up with the gentleman in the cassock, who had come up
158 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
for the second time and apparently resigned himself to
the worst. I got hold of him, turned on my back and
prepared for stern measures if he should attempt to grip me.
He didn't. He was the easiest johnny to rescue possible,
and in another five minutes I'd got him safely to the bank
and scrambled up.
There was nobody about, worse luck, and I started to
pump the water out of him as well as I could, and after
a few minutes had the satisfaction of seeing his face turn
from blue-gray to something like its normal yellow under
the somewhat ghastly light of the moon. His teeth began
to chatter as I jerked him to his feet and furiously rubbed
him up and down.
I tried to recall what I knew of pigeon English.
"Bad man throw you in river. You velly lucky, man
come by save you, Johnny."
I had the shock of my life.
"I am indeed fortunate," came in a thin, reed-like voice,
"I am indeed fortunate in having found so brave a pre-
server. Honorable sir, from this moment my life is
"Why, you speak perfect English," I said in amazement.
"I have been resident in this country for some time, sir,"
he replied, "as a student at King's College, until I under-
took my present work."
"Well," I said, "we'd better not stand here exchanging
polite remarks much longer. There is such a thing as pneu-
monia, which you would do well to avoid. If you're strong
enough, we'll hurry up to the terrace and find my house,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 159
where we'll get you dry and warm. I'm the landlord of
the 'Golden Swan' Hotel."
He was a polite fellow, this. He bowed profoundly, and
then, as the water dripped from his black and meager form,
he said something rather extraordinary.
"I should never have thought it."
I cursed myself. The excitement had made me return
to the manner of Piccadilly, and this shrewd observer had
seen it in a moment. I said no more, but took him by the
arm and yanked him along for one of the fastest miles he
had ever done in his life.
I took him to the side door of my pub. Fortunately
Ah Sing w^as descending the stairs to replenish an empty
decanter with whisky — my yellow gentlemen used to like
it in their tea! I explained what had happened in a few
words and my shivering derelict was hurried upstairs to
my own bedroom. I don't know what Rolston did to him,
though I heard Sliddim — now quite the house cat — directed
to run down into the kitchen and confer with Mrs. Abbs.
For my part, I sat in the room behind the bar, listen-
ing to the Honest Fool talking with my patrons, and shed
my clothes before a blazing fire. A little hot rum, a change,
and a dressing-gown, and I was myself again, and smoking
a pipe I fell into a sort of dream.
It was a pleasant dream. I suppose the shock of the
swim, the race up the terrace to the "Swan," the rum and
milk which followed had a soporific, soothing effect. I
wasn't exactly asleep, I was pleasantly drowsed, and I had
a sort of feeling that something was going to happen. Just
i6o THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
about closing time Rolston glided in — I never saw a Euro-
pean before or since who could so perfectly imitate the
ghost walk of the yellow men.
I looked to see that the door to the bar was shut.
"Well, how's our friend?" I asked.
"He's had a big shock, Sir Thomas, but he's all right
now. I've rubbed him all over with oil, fed him up with
beef-tea and brandy and found him dry clothes."
"He's from the towers, of course?"
As I said this, I saw Bill Rolston's face, beneath its yel-
low dye, was blazing with excitement.
"Sir Thomas," he said in a whisper, "this is Pu-Yi him-
self, Mr. Morse's Chinese secretary, a man utterly differ-
ent from the others we have seen here yet. He's of the
Mandarin class, the buttons on his robe are of red coral.
In this house, at this moment, we have one of the masters
of the Secret City."
I gave a long, low whistle, which — I remember it so well
— exactly coincided with the raucous shout of the Honest
Fool — "Time, gentlemen, please!"
A thought struck me.
"The other Chinese in the large and small rooms, do
they know this man is here?"
"No, Sir Thomas ; I am more than glad to say I got him
up to your own room when both doors were closed."
"What's he doing now?"
"He's having a little sleep. I promised to call him in
an hour or so, when he wishes to pay you his respects."
He listened for a moment.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS i6i
"The others are going downstairs," he said. "I must
be there to see them out, and I have one or two little
transactions — "
He felt in a villainous side pocket and I knew as well
as possible what it contained, and what would be handed
to one or two of the moon-faced gentlemen as they slipped
out of the side door on their way home.
Bill came back in some twenty minutes.
"Now," he said, "I'm going upstairs to wake Pu-Yi and
bring him down to you. You must remember. Sir Thomas,
that I am only a dirty little servant. I am as far beneath
a man like Pu-Yi as Sir Thomas Kirby is above Stanley
Whistlecraft, so I cannot be present at your interview.
My idea was that I should creep into the bar — Stanley
will have had his supper and gone to bed — and lie down
on the floor with my ear to the bottom of the door, then
I can hear everything."
"That's a good idea," I said, for I was beginning to
realize what an enormous lot might depend upon this inter-
view. Then I thought of something else.
"Look here, Bill, you must remember this too. I fished
the blighter out of the Thames and no doubt he will be
thankful in his overdone, Oriental fashion. But to him, a
man of the class you say he is, I shall be nothing but a
vulgar publican, and I don't see quite what's going to come
out of that!"
He had slipped the gutta-percha pads out of his cheeks
— an operation to which I had grown quite accustomed —
and I could see his face as it really was.
i62 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"That's occurred to me also," he replied, "but somehow
or other I'm sure the fates are on our side to-night."
He arose, turned away for a moment, there was a click
and a gasp, and he was the little impassive Oriental again.
He glided up to me, put his yellow hand with the long,
polished finger nails upon my shoulder, and said in my ear:
"Sir Thomas, he must see Her every day!"
He vanished from the room almost as he spoke, and left
me with blood on fire.
I was to see some one who might have spoken with
Juanita that very day! and I sat almost trembling with
impatience, though issuing a dozen warnings to myself to
betray nothing, to keep every sense alert, so that I might
turn the interview to my own advantage.
At last there was a knock on the door. Bill opened it
and the slim figure of the man I had rescued glided in.
They had dried his clothes, he even wore his little skull
cap which had apparently stuck to his head while he was
in the water, and I had the opportunity of seeing him in
the light for the first time.
Instead of the flat, Tartar nose, I saw one boldly aquiline,
with large, narrow nostrils. His eyes were almond shaped
but lustrous and full of fire. About the lips, which had
no trace of sensuality but were beautifully cut, there was
a kind of serene pathos — I find it difficult to describe in any
other way. The whole face was noble in contour and in
expression, though the general impression it gave was one
of unutterable sadness. Dress him how you might, meet
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 163
him where you would, there was no possibility of mistaking
Pu-Yi for anything but a gentleman of high degree.
The door closed and I rose from my seat and held out
"Well," I said, "this is a bit of orlright, sir, and I'm glad
to see you so well recovered. To-morrow morning we'll
have the law on them dirty rascals that assaulted you."
I put on the accent thickly — flashed my diamond ring at
him, in short — for this might well be a game of touch and
go, and I had a deep secret to preserve.
He put his long, thin hand in mine, gripped it, and then
suddenly turned it over so that the backs of my fingers were
It was an odd thing to do and I wondered what it meant.
"Oh, landlord of the Swan of Gold," he piped, in his
curious, flute-like voice, sorting out his words as he went
on, "I owe you my unworthy life, which is nothing in itself
and which I don't value, save only for a certain oppor-
tunity which remains to it, and is a private matter. But
I owe my life to your courage and strength and flowering
kindness, and I come to put myself in your hands."
Really he was making a damn lot of fuss about nothing!
"Look here," I said, "that's all right. You would have
done as much for me. Now let's sit down and have a peg
and a chat. I can put you up for the rest of the night,
you know, and I shall be awfully glad to do it."
He looked as if he was going to make more speeches,
but I cut him short.
i64 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"As for putting your life in my hands," I said, "we don't
talk like that in England."
He sat down and a faint smile came upon his tired lips.
"And do the public-house keepers in England have hands
such as yours are?" he said gently. "Sir, your hands are
white, they are also shaped in a certain way, and your nails
are not even in mourning for your profession!"
I cujsed myself savagely as he mocked me. Bill had
pointed out over and over again that I oughtn't to use a
nail brush too frequently — it wasn't in the part — but I
always forgot it.
To hide my confusion I moved a little table towards
him on which was a box of excellent cigarettes. Unfor-
tunately, also on the table was a little pocket edition of
Shakespeare with which I used to solace the drab hours.
He picked it up, opened it plump at "Romeo and Juliet"
— the play which, for reasons known to you, I most affected
at the time — and looked up at me with gentle eyes.
" 'Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona,' "
My brain was working like a mill. I could not make
the fellow out. What did he know, what did he suspect?
Well, the best thing was to ask him outright.
He became distressed at once.
"You speak harshly to me, O my preserver. I meant
but that I knew at once that you are not born in the
position in which I see you. Perhaps you will give me
your kind leave to explain. In my native country I am
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 165
of high hereditary rank, though I am poor enough and
occupy a somewhat menial position here. My honorable
name, honorable sir, is Pu-Yi, which will convey nothing
to you. During the rebellion of twenty years ago in China,
my ancestral house was destroyed and as a child I was
rescued and sent to Europe. For many years the peasants
of my Province scraped their little earnings together, and
a sum sufficient to support me in my studies was sent to
me in Paris. I speak the French, Spanish and English
languages. I am a Bachelor of Science of the London Uni-
versity, and my one hope and aim in life is, and has been,
to acquire sufficient money to return to the tombs of my
ancestors on the banks of the Yang-tse-kiang, there to live
a quiet life, much resembling that of an English country
squire, until I also fade away into the unknown, and be-
come part of the Absolute."
There was something perfectly charming about him.
Since he spotted I wasn't a second edition of the Honest
Fool, since he had somehow or other divined that I was
an educated man, I felt drawn to him. You must remem-
ber that for months now the only person I had had to talk
to was Bill Rolston. And all the time, he was so occu-
pied in our tortuous campaign that we only met late at
night to report progress.
For a moment I quite forgot what this new friend might
mean to me, and opened out to him without a thought of
I was a fool, no doubt. Afterwards, talking it all over
with Pat Moore and Arthur Winstanley, I saw that I ran a
i66 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
great risk. Anyhow, I reciprocated Pu-Yi's confidence as
well as I could.
"I'm awfully glad we've met, even under such unfortu-
nate circumstances. You are quite right. I come of a
different class from what the ordinary frequenter of this
hotel might suppose, but since you have discovered it I
beg you to keep it entirely to yourself. I also have had
my misfortunes. Perhaps I also am longing for some ulti-
mate happiness or triumph."
Out of the box he took a cigarette, and his long, delicate
fingers played with it.
"Brother," he said, "I understand, and I say again,
now that I can say it in a new voice, my life is yours."
Then I began on my own account.
"Tell me," I said, "of yourself. Many of your fellow-
countrymen come here — the lower orders — and they're all
employed by the millionaire, Gideon Morse, who seems to
prefer the men of China to any other. You also, Pu-Yi, are
connected with this colossal mystery?"
He didn't answer for a moment, but looked down at the
glowing end of his cigarette.
"Yes," he replied, with some constraint, "I am in the
service of the honorable Mr. Gideon Mendoza Morse. I
am, in fact, his private secretary and through me his in-
structions are conveyed to the various heads of depart-
"You are fortunate. I suppose that before long you
will be able to fulfill your ambitions and retire to China?"
With a quick glance at me he admitted that this was so.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 167
"And yet," I said thoughtfully, "it must be a very try-
ing service, despite that you live in Wonderland, in a City
Again I caught a swift regard and he leant forward in
''Why do you say that?" he asked.
I hazarded a bold shot,
"Simply because the man is mad," I said.
His bright eyes narrowed to glittering slits.
"You quote gossip of the newspapers," he replied.
"Do I? I happen to know more than the newspapers
He rose to his feet, took two steps towards me, and looked
down with a twitching face.
"Who are you?" he said, and his whole frail frame
I caught him firmly by the arm and stared into his face
— God knows what my own was like.
"I am the one who has been waiting, the one who is
waiting, to help — the one who has come to save," I said, and
my voice was not my own — it was as if the words were
put into my mouth by an outside power.
He wrenched his arm away, gave a little cry, strode to
the mantelpiece and bent his head upon his arms. His
whole body was shaken with convulsive sobs.
I stood in the middle of the room watching him, hardly
daring to breathe, feeling that my heart was swelling until
it occupied the whole of my body.
At length he looked up.
i68 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"Then I shall be of some use to Her after all," he said.
"This is too much honor. The Lily of White Jade — "
He staggered back, his face working terribly, and fell
in a huddled heap upon the floor. I was just opening my
mouth to call for Rolston when there came a thunderous
knocking upon the side door of the house.
I ran into the dimly lit passage and as I did so Rolston
flitted out of the bar door and stood beside me.
"I have heard everything," he whispered, "but what, what
He pointed to the door, and as he did so there was
again the thunder of the knocker and the whirr of the
Hardly knowing what I did I shot back the bolts at
top and bottom, turned the heavy key in its lock and
opened the door.
Outside in the moonlight a figure was standing, a man
in a heavy fur coat, carrying a suitcase in his left hand.
"What the devil — " I was beginning, when he pushed
past me and came into the hall.
Then I saw, with a leap of all my pulses, that it was
Lord Arthur Winstanley.
It was four o'clock in the morning. A bitter wind had
risen and was wailing around the ''Golden Swan," inter-
spersed with heavy storms of hail which rattled on roof
and windows. Outside the tempest shrieked and was ac-
companied by a vast, humming, harp-like noise as it flung
itself against the lattice-work of the towers and vibrated
over Richmond like a chorus of giant ^olian harps. Arthur
and I sat in the shabby sitting-room, which had been the
theater of so much emotion that night, and stared at each
other with troubled faces.
There was a little pattering noise, and Bill Rolston came
in, closing the door carefully behind him.
"He wants you to go up to him, Sir Thomas. You told
me to use my own discretion. Since we carried him up
and I gave him the bromides, I haven't left his bedside.
I talked to him in his own language, but he wouldn't say
a word until I threw off every disguise and told him who
I really was and who you were also."
"But, Rolston, you may have spoiled everything!"
He shook his head.
"You don't know what I know. Now that he's aware
you are of his own rank, and that I am your lieutenant,
his life is absolutely your forfeit. If you were to tell him
to commit suicide he would do it at once as the most
I70 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
natural thing in the world, to preserve his honor. He is
your man from this moment, Sir Thomas, just as I am."
"Then I'll go up. Arthur, you don't mind?"
"Mind! I thought I brought a bomb-shell into your
house to-night, and so I have too, but to find all this going
on simply robs me of speech. Meanwhile, if you will intro-
duce me to this Asiatic gentleman who speaks such excel-
lent English, and whom, from repute I guess to be Mr.
William Rolston, I daresay we can amuse ourselves during
the remainder of this astonishing night. And," he con-
tinued, "if there is such a thing as a ham upon the prem-
ises, some thick slices grilled upon this excellent fire, and
some cool ale in a pewter — "
I left them to it and went upstairs to my chamber. It
was lit with two or three candles in silver holders — I had
made the place quite habitable by now — and lying on my
bed, covered with an eiderdown, his eyes feverish, his face
flushed, lay the Mandarin.
His eyes opened and he smiled. It was the first time
I had seen the delicate, melancholy lips light up in a real
"What's that for?" I said, as I sat down by the bed-
"You are so big, and strong. Prince," he replied, "and
large and confident; and your disguise fell from you as
you came in and I saw you as you were."
I knelt beside the bed and my breath came thick and
"For God's sake don't play with me," I said, "not that
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 171
you are doing that. You have met Her — Miss Morse I
mean, my Juanita?"
"Prince, she has deigned to give me her confidence in
some degree. I do my work in the wonderful library that
Mr. Morse has built. It's a great hall, full of the rarest
volumes; and there are long windows from which one can
look down upon London and gaze beyond the City to
where the wrinkled sea beats around the coast. And,
day by day, in her loneliness, the Fairest of Maidens has
come to this high place and taken a book of poems, sat
in the embrasure, and stared down at the world below."
He raised a thin hand and held it upright. It was so
transparent that the light of a candle behind turned it to
"Let my presumptuous desires be forever silent," he
chanted. " 'East is east and west is west,' and I erred
gravely. But, worship is worship, and worship is sacri-
I could hardly speak, my voice was hoarse, his words
had given me such a picture of Juanita up there in the
"I am not a Prince, I only have a very ordinary title.
If you know England, you understand what a baronet is."
"I know England. Prince, your Princess is waiting for
you and sighing out her heart that you have not come
I leapt to my feet and swore a great oath that made
the attic room ring.
172 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"You mean?" I shouted.
"Prince, the Lily of all the lilies, the Rose of all the
roses, alone, distraught, another Ophelia — no, say rather
Juliet with her nurse — has honored me with the story of
her love. She never told me whom she longed for, but I
knew that it was some one down in the world."
I staggered out a question.
"It is my humble adoration for her which has sharp-
ened all my wits," he answered. "It seemed an accident
— though the gods designed it without doubt — that made
you save my life to-night, but now I know you are the
lover of the Lily. And I am the servant — the happy mes-
senger — of you both."
"You can take a letter from me to her?"
"My friend, tell me, tell me all about her. Is she happy?
— no, I know she cannot be that — ^but — "
He lifted himself up in the bed, and there was some-
thing priest-like in his attitude as he folded his thin hands
upon his breast and spoke.
"Two thousand feet above London there is a Palace
of all delights. Immeasurable wealth, the genius of great
artists have been combined to make a City of Enchant-
ment. And in every garden with its plashing fountains,
in its halls of pictures and delights, upon its aerial towers,
down its gilded galleries, lurking at the banquet, mingling
with the music, great shapes of terror squeak and gibber
like the ghosts Shakespeare speaks of in ancient Rome."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 173
"There is a noble intellect overdone and dissolved in
terror. In all other respects sane as you or I, my savior
and benefactor, Gideon Morse is a maniac whose one sole
idea is to preserve himself and his daughter from some
horror, some vengeance which surely cannot threaten him."
Twice, thrice I strode the attic.
Then at last I stopped.
"Will you help me now, Pu-Yi, will you take a letter
from me, will you help me to meet Her, and soon?"
He bowed his head for answer, and then, as he looked
up again his face was suffused with a sort of bright eager-
ness that touched me to the heart.
"I am yours," he said.
"Then quickly, and soon, Pu-Yi, for you are only half
informed. Gideon Morse may be driven mad by fear, no
doubt he is. But it is not an imaginary fear. It is a thing
so sinister, so real and terrible, that I cannot tell you of
it now. I am too exhausted by the events of this night.
I will say only this, that within the last hour a faithful
friend of mine has returned from the other side of the
world and brings me ominous news."
I believe that Pu-Yi, whose movements were, of course,
not restricted like those of the lower officials, returned to
the towers in the early morning. As for me, I caught a
workmen's train from Richmond station, slunk in an early
taxi to Piccadilly with Arthur Winstanley, and slipped into
lavender-clean sheets and silence till past noon, when Cap-
tain Patrick Moore arrived to an early lunch. Dressed
174 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
again in proper clothes, with dear old Preston fussing about
me with tears in his eyes, I felt a thousand times more
confident than before. Old Pat had to be informed of every-
thing, and as a preliminary I told him my whole story, from
the starting-point of the "Golden Swan."
"And now," I said, "here's Arthur, who has traveled
thousands of miles and who has come back with informa-
tion that fits in absolutely with everything else. He gave
me an epitome last night, under strange and fantastic cir-
cumstances. Now then, Arthur, let's have it all clearly,
and then we shall know where we are."
Arthur, whose face was white and strained, began at once.
"I went straight to Rio," he said, "and of course I took
care that I was accredited to our Legation. As a matter
of fact the Minister to the Brazilian Government is my
cousin. The news about the towers was all over Brazil.
Everybody there knows Gideon Mendoza Morse. He's been
by a long way the most picturesque figure in South Amer-
ica during the last twenty years. He has been President
of the Republic. Of course, I had the freshest news. My
mother had given a party to introduce Juanita to London
society. I had danced with her. I had talked to her fa-
ther — I was the young English society man who brought
authentic news. I told all I knew, and a good bit more,
and I sucked in information like a vacuum-cleaner. I
learnt a tremendous lot as to the sources of Morse's enor-
mous wealth. I was glad to find that there were no allega-
tions against him of any trust methods, any financial tricks.
He had got rich like one of the old patriarchs, simply by
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 175
shrewdness and long accumulation and rising values. But
I had to go a good deal farther back than this, I had to
dive into obscure politics of South America, and then —
it was almost like a punch on the jaw — I stumbled against
the Santa Hermandad."
Pat Moore and I cried out simultaneously.
"What on earth do you mean?"
"It's sheer coincidence," he answered. "I hope it's not
a bad omen. During the time when the last Emperor of
Brazil, Pedro II, was reigning, it was seen by all his sup-
porters, both in Brazil and in Spain, that his power was
waning and a crash was sure to come. In order to preserve
the Principle of the Monarchy, a powerful Secret Society
was started, under the name of the Holy Brotherhood or
Santa Hermandad. Gideon Morse, then a young and very
influential man, became a member of this Society. But,
after the Emperor was deposed, and a Republic declared,
IVIorse threw in his lot with the new regime. I have gath-
ered that he did so out of pure patriotism; he realized that
a Republic was the best thing for his coxmtry, and had no
personal ax to grind whatever. He prospered exceedingly.
As you know he has, in his time, been President of the
Republica dos Estados Unidos de Brazil, and has con-
tributed more to the success of the country than any other
"Fascinatin' study, history," said Captain Moore, "for
those that like it. Personally, I am no bookworm; cut the
cackle, Arthur, old bean, and come to the 'osses."
176 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"Peace, fool!" said Arthur, "if you can't understand what
I say, Tom will explain to you later, though I'll be as short
as I jolly-well can."
He turned to me.
"When this Secret Society failed, Tom — the Hermandad,
I mean — it wasn't dissolved. It was agreed by the Irmer
Circle that it was only suspended. But as the years went
by, nearly all the prominent members died, and the Re-
public became an assured thing. But a few years ago the
Society was revived, not with any real hope of putting an
Emperor on the throne again but as a means to terrorism
and blackmail. All the most lawless elements of Spanish
South America became affiliated into a new and sinister
confederation. You've heard of the power of the Camorra
in Italy — well, the Hermandad in Brazil is like that at the
present time. It has ramifications everywhere, the police
are becoming powerless to cope with it, and a secret reign
of terror goes on at this hour.
"These people have made a dead shot for Gideon Morse.
He has defied them for a long time, but their power has
grown and grown. I understand that two years ago the
Hermandad fished out of obscurity an old Spanish noble-
man, the Marquis da Silva, who was one of the original,
chivalrous monarchists. He was about the only surviving
member of the old Fraternity, and they got him to produce
its constitutions. He came upon the scene some two years
ago and Morse was given just that time to fall in with the
plans of the modern Society, or be assassinated together with
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 177
He stopped, and it was dear old Pat Moore who shouted
*'Why, now," he bellowed, "sure and I see it all. That's
why he built the Tower of Babel and went to live on the
top, and drag his daughter with him — so that these Sinn
Feiners should not get at 'm,"
"Yes, Pat, you've seen through it at a glance," said
Arthur, with a private grin to me.
Pat was tremendously bucked up at the thought that he
had solved a problem which had been puzzling both of us.
"All the same," he said, "the place is too well guarded
for any Spanish murderer to get up. Besides, Tom here is
makin' all his arrangements and he'll have Miss Juanita
out of it in no time."
"The circumstances," Arthur went on calmly, "are per-
fectly well known to a few people at the head of the Gov-
ernment in Brazil. I had a long and intimate conversation
with Don Francisco Torrome, Minister of Police to the
Republic. He told me that the Hermandad is intensely
revengeful, wicked, and imscrupulous. Moreover, it's rich;
and money wouldn't be allowed to stand in the way of
getting at Morse. What is lacking is energy. These peo-
ple make the most complete and fiendish plans, they dream
the most fantastic and devilish dreams, and then they say
'Manana' — which means, 'It will do very well to-morrow' —
and go to sleep in the sun."
"Then after all, Morse is in no danger!" I cried, im-
mensely relieved. "You said the danger was real, but you
178 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"Sorry, old chap, not a bit of it. There's some one on
the track with energy enough to pull the lid off the infernal
regions if necessary. In short, the Hermandad have en-
gaged the services of an international scoundrel of the high-
est intellectual powers, a man without remorse, an artist
in crime — I should say, and most Chiefs of Police in the
kingdoms of the world would agree with me — the most
dangerous ruffian at large. You've seen him, Tom, I pointed
him out to you at a little Soho restaurant where we dined
once together. His name is Mark Antony Midwinter, and
he traveled from Brazil, together with a jriend, by the same
boat that I did."
"Then he must be in London now!" said Pat Moore,
with the air of announcing another great discovery.
"But look herel" I cried. "I told you, before you sailed
for South America, I told you what I saw at the Ritz
Hotel that night. It was the very same man, Mark Antony
Midwinter, as you call him, running like a hare from old
Morse, who was shooting fireworks round him with a smile
on his face. That's not the man you think he is. He
may be a devil, but that night he was a devil of a funk."
"Wait a bit, my son," said Arthur. "I have thought about
that incident rather carefully. Remember that Morse was
given a certain time in which to come in line and join the
Hermandad. From what I have heard of the punctilious,
senile Marquis da Silva, he wouldn't have allowed the cam-
paign against Morse to be started a moment before the
time of immunity was up. Might not Midwinter at that
time, quite ignorant that the towers were being built as
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 179
a refuge for Morse, have tried to go behind his own em-
ployers and offer to betray them, and to drop the whole busi-
ness for a million or so? From what I know of the man's
career I should think it extremely probable."
I whistled. Arthur seemed to have penetrated to the
center of that night's mystery. There was nothing more
likely. I could imagine the whole scene, the panther man
laying his cards on the table and offering to save IMorse
and Juanita from certain death — Morse, already half mad-
dened by what hung over him, chuckling in the knowledge
that he had built an impregnable refuge, dismissing the
scoundrel with utter firmness and contempt.
"I believe you've hit it, Arthur," I said. "It fits in like
the last bit of a jig-saw puzzle."
"I'm pretty sure myself, but even now you don't know all.
Quite early in his life, when Midwinter — he's the last of
the Staffordshire Midwinters, an ancient and famous family
— was expelled from Harrow, he went out to South America.
Morse was at that time in the wilds of Goyaz, where he
was developing his mines. There was a futile attempt to
kidnap the child, Juanita, who was then about two years
old, and Midwinter was in it. The young gentleman, I un-
derstand, was caught. Morse was then, as doubtless he is
now, a man of a grim and terrible humor. He took young
Midwinter and treated him with every possible contemp-
tuous indignity. They say his head was shaved; he was
birched like a schoolboy by Morse's peons; he was branded,
tarred and feathered, and turned contemptuously adrift.
The fellow came back to Europe, married a celebrated
i8o THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
actress in Paris, who is now dead, and has been, as I say,
one of the most successful uncaught members of the higher
criminal circles that ever was. He made an attempt at the
Ritz, swallowing his hatred. It failed. His employers in
Brazil know nothing of it. He is here in London — as Pat
so wonderfully discovered — supplied with unlimited money,
burning with a hatred of which a decent man can have no
conception, and confronted with his last chance in the
As he said this, Arthur got up, bit his lip savagely and
left the room.
It was about two-thirty in the afternoon.
Though he closed the door after him, I heard voices in
the corridor, and the door reopened an inch or two as if
some one was holding it before coming in.
"You are not well, my lord?"
"Oh, I'm all right, Preston; just feeling a little faint,
that's all. Sorry to nearly have barged into you; I'll go
and lie down for half an hour,"
The door opened and Preston came in with a telegram.
I opened it immediately and felt three or four flimsy
sheets of Government paper in my hand.
The telegram was in the special cipher of the Evening
Special, and was from Rolston.
"The tower top is connected with Richmond telephone
exchange by private wire. I have been rung up and in long
conversation with Pu-Yi. Early in the evening you will
receive a letter from certain lady. Owing to certain com-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS i8i
plication of circumstances your attempt at storming the
tower and seeing lady must be carried out to-night. Our
friend is making all possible arrangements to this end and
urgently begs you to be prepared. He implicitly urges me
to warn you the attempt is not without grave danger.
Please return to 'Swan' at once. There is much to be
arranged, and at lunch time two strange-looking custom-
ers were in the bar whose appearance I didn't like at all.
Also Sliddim thinks he recognized one of them as an ex-
ceedingly dangerous person."
For to-night! At last the patient months of waiting
were over and it had all narrowed down to this. To-night
I should win or lose all that made life worth living; and
the fast taxi that took me back to Richmond within twenty
minutes of receiving the telegram, carried a man singing.
The wind was getting up on Richmond Hill and masses of
cloud were scudding from the South and obscuring the light
of the moon, when at about half-past nine a small, well-
appointed motor coupe drew up in front of the great gate
at the tower inclosure.
The small closed-in car was painted dead black, the man
who drove it was in livery, and a professional-looking per-
son in a fur coat stepped out and pressed the electric button
of a small door in the wall by the side of the huge main
gates. In his hand he had a little black bag.
In a moment the door opened a few inches and a large,
saffron-colored, intelligent face could be seen in the aperture.
"The doctor 1" said the gentleman from the coupe. The
door opened at once to admit him.
He turned and spoke to the chauffeur.
"As I cannot tell you how long I shall be, Williams," he
said, "you had better go back to the surgery and wait there.
I have no doubt I can telephone when I require you."
The man touched his cap and drove off, and the doctor
found himself in a vaulted passage, to the right of which
was a brightly lit room. Standing in the passage and bow-
ing was a gigantic Chinaman, Kwang-su, the keeper of the
gate, in a quilted black robe lined with fur. The man bowed
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 183
low, and a second Chinaman came out of the room, a thin
"Ah, Dr. Thomas!" he said, "we've been expecting you.
I am secretary to Mr. Morse. Perhaps you will come this
way." i^ ' ■■ ■ If j^r^'^^fl*;?^^^
He led the doctor down the passage, unlocked a further
door and the two men emerged into the grounds, proceed-
ing down a wide, graveled road, bordered by strips of lawn
and lit at intervals with electric standards. In the distance
there were ranges of lit buildings with figures flitting back-
wards and forwards before the orange oblongs of doors and
windov/s. In another quarter rose the lighted dome of the
great Power House from which the low hum of dynamos
and the steady throb of engines could be faintly heard in
pauses of the gale. It was exactly like standing at night
in the center of some great exhibition grounds, save that
straight ahead, overshadowing everything and covering an
immense area of ground, were the bases of the three great
towers, a nightmare of fantastic steel tracery such as no
man's eye had beheld before in the history of the world.
"So far, so good," said Pu-Yi with a sigh of relief. "That
was excellently managed, the motor-car was quite in keeping.
Your wonderful little friend who speaks my language so
well is already in the compound with some of the men. He
will await here to take any orders that may be necessary."
I was trembling with excitement and could hardly reply.
Here I was at last, passed into the Forbidden City with
the greatest ease.
"We will walk slowly towards tower number three, which
i84 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
is the one we shall ascend," said my companion, "and I
will explain the situation to you. On the tower top I have
supreme authority, except for one man, and that's the Irish-
American, Boss Mulligan. This worthy is much addicted
to the use of hot and rebellious liquors, and is generally
more or less intoxicated about this time, though he is more
alert and ferocious than when sober. To-night I have taken
the opportunity to put a little something in his bottle, a
little something from China, which will not be detected, and
which will by now have sent him into a profound, drugged
slumber. I then telephoned all down the tower to the lift
men on the various stages, and also to Kwang there, that
a doctor was to be expected and that I would come down
to meet him and conduct him to Mr. Morse."
"Excellent!" I said, "and now—?"
"Now we are going straight up to the very top. Every
one will see us but no one will think anything strange.
Moreover, and this is a fact in our favor, when Mulligan
awakes no one will be able to tell him of the incident even
if they suspected anything, for few, if any, of the tower
men speak more than a few rudimentary words of English,
and I am the intermediary between them and their master.
This was specially arranged by Mr. Morse so that none
of them could get into communication with Europeans. The
fact is greatly in our favor."
I pressed my hand to a pocket over my heart, where lay
a little note which had been mysteriously conveyed to me
early in the evening — a little agitated note bidding me come
at all costs — and passed on in silence until we came under
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 185
the gloomy shadows of the mighty girders and columns
which sprang up from an expanse of smooth concrete which
seemed to stretch as far as eye could reach.
We changed our lift at each stage; and I could have
wished that it was day or, the night was finer, for the ex-
perience is wonderful when one undergoes it for the first
"We shall ascend by one of the small rapid lifts built for
four or five persons only, and not the large and more cum-
brous machines. Even so, you must remember. Doctor" —
he chuckled as he called me that — "we have nearly half a
mile to go."
On and on we went, amid this lifeless forest of steel
with its smooth concrete and shining electric-lamps, until
at last we approached a small, illuminated pavilion, where
two silent celestials awaited us. We stepped into the lift,
the door was closed, a bell rang and we began to move
upwards. I sat down on a plush-covered seat and didn't
attempt to look out of the frosted windows on either side
until at length, after what seemed an interminable time, we
stopped with a little jerk. Pu-Yi opened the door and led
me down on to a platform.
"We are now," he said, "on the first stage — just fifty
feet higher than the golden cross on the top of Saint Paul's.
If you will come up this slant — see! here's the next lift."
I followed him along a steel platform for some twenty
or thirty yards, the wind whistling all around. On look-
ing to the right I saw nothing but a black void, at the
bottom of which, far, far below, was the yellow glow of
i86 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Richmond town. On looking to the left I stopped for a
moment and stared, unable to believe my eyes. As I live,
there was an immense lake there, surrounded by rushes that
sang and swished in the wind, with a boat-house, and a little
Then, with a clang of wings and a chorus of shrill quacks,
a gaggle of wild duck got up and sped away into the dark.
"Yes," said Pu-Yi, "that's the lake. There are many
variety of water fowl fed there, who make it their home.
On a quiet afternoon, walking round the margin, or in a
canoe, one can feel ten thousand miles away from London.
But that's nothing to what you will see if circumstances
I have but a dim recollection of the second stage, which
was only a stage in the particular tower we were mounting,
and did not extend between the three as the lower and two
upper ones did, forming the immense plateaus of which the
lake was one and the City in the clouds itself another.
It was when we had slowed down, and even in the dark
lift, that I began to have a curious sensation of an im-
mense immeasurable height, and Pu-Yi gave me a warning
look as who would say, "Now, get ready, the adventure
We stopped, the door slid back and immediately we were
in a blaze of light. We were no longer out of doors. The
lift had come up through the floor of a large room. It
was divided into two portions by polished steel bars extend-
ing from ceiling to floor. A cat could not have squeezed
through. On our side, the lift side, the floor was covered
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 187
with matting but there was no furniture at all. Beyond
the bars were a Turkey carpet, several armchairs, a mahog-
any table with bottles, siphons, newspapers, and a large,
automatic pistol. An electric fire burned cheerily in one
corner and at right angles to it was a couch. Upon this
couch, purple-faced and snoring like a bull, lay Mulligan,
huge, relaxed, helpless.
"Good heavens!" I whispered. "Gideon Morse is safe
"In ten seconds," Pu-Yi whispered, "by pressing that bell
button. Mulligan could have the room full of armed guards,
and as you see, this steel fence is unpassable without the
key. There are only three keys, of which I have one."
He produced it as he spoke, inserting it in a gleaming,
complicated lock, slid back a portion of the steel-work, and
we stepped into the guard-room.
"We are now," said my guide, "on the platform imme-
diately under that on which the City rests, and about a
hundred feet below it. This platform is entirely occupied
by this guard-room, a range of store and dwelling houses,
the elaborate electric installation, power for which is sup-
plied from below, Turkish baths, a swimming bath, and so
forth. Please follow me."
With a glance of repulsion at the drugged giant on the
couch I went after Pu-Yi, through a door on the opposite
side of the room, and down a long corridor with windows
on one side and arched recesses on the other. At the end
of this we came out again into the open air, that is to say
that we were shielded by walls and buildings, walking as
i88 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
it were in a sleeping town upon streets paved with wood
blocks, while instead of the vault of heaven above, about
the height of a tallish church tower were the great beams
and girders which supported the City itself, and from which,
at regular intervals, hung arc lamps which threw a blue
and stilly radiance upon the streets and roofs of the build-
It was colossal, amazing, this great colony in the sky.
Now and then we heard voices, the rattle of dice thrown
upon a board, and the wailing music of Chinese violins.
Two or three times silent figures passed us with a low
bow, and without a glimmer of curiosity in their impassive
faces, until at length we came to a long row of lift doors,
with an inscription above each one, and in the center, divid-
ing them into sections, a large, vaulted stairway mounting
upwards till it was lost to sight. It was lined with white
tiles like a subway in some great railway terminus.
Pu-Yi unlocked the door of a small lift. We got into
it, it rushed up for a few seconds and then we came out of
a small white kiosk upon a scene so wonderful, so enchanted
that I forgot all else for a second, caught hold of my con-
ductor's thin arm and gave a cry of admiration and wonder.
A mass of clouds had just raced before the moon, leaving it
free to shed its light until another should envelop it.
The pure radiance, unspoiled by smoke, mist, or the
miasma which hangs above the roofs of earthly cities, poured
down in floods of light upon a vast quadrangle of buildings,
white as snow and with roofs that seemed of gold.
I had the impression of immensity, though magnified a
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 189
dozen times, that the great quadrangle of Christ Church,
Oxford, or the court of Trinity, Cambridge, give to one who
sees them for the first time. But that impression was only
fleeting. These buildings seemed to obey no architectural
law. They were tossed up like foam in the upper air, mar-
velous, fantastic, beautiful beyond words.
We hurried along by the side of a great green lawn
which might have been a century growing, past bronze
dragons supporting fountain basins, down an arcade, where
the broad leaves of palms clicked together and there was a
scent of roses, until we hurried through a little postern door
and up some steps and came out in what Pu-Yi whispered
was the library.
Wonder upon wonders! My brain reeled as we stepped
out of the door in the wall into a great Gothic room with
groined roof of stone, an oriel window at one end, and
thousands upon thousands of books in the embayed shelves
of ancient oak. It was exactly like the library of some
great college or castle; one expected to see learned men in
gowns and hoods moving slowly from shelf to shelf, or writ-
ing at this or that table.
"But, but," I stammered, "this might have been here
for seven hundred years!" and indeed there was all the deep
scholastic charm and dignity of one of the great libraries
of the past.
For answer he turned to me, and I saw that his thin
hand clutched at his heart.
"It's all illusion," he whispered, "all curming and wonder-
ful illusion. The walls of this place are not of ancient stone.
I90 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
They are plates of toughened steel. The old oak was made
yesterday at great expense. 'Tis all a picture in a dream."
I saw that he was powerfully affected for a moment, but
for just that moment I did not understand why.
"But the books!" I cried, looking round me in amaze-
ment — "surely the books — ?"
"Ah, yes," he sighed, "they are the collection of Mr.
Gideon Morse, which is second to very few in the world.
They were all brought over from Rio nearly two years ago.
We cannot compete with the British Museum, or some of
the great American collectors in certain ways, but there are
treasures here — "
We had by now walked half-way up the great hall. He
stopped, went to part of the wall covered with books,
withdrew one, turned a little handle which its absence re-
vealed, and a whole section of the shelves swung outwards.
"In here, please," said Pu-Yi, "this is a little room where
I sometimes do secretarial work. At any rate it is hidden,
and you will be quite safe here while I go to the Seiiorita
and tell her that you await her."
The door clicked. I sat down on a low couch and waited.
The experiences of the night had been so strange, the
intense longing of months seemed now so near fruition,
that every artery in my body pulsed and drumm^ed, and it
was only by a tremendous effort of will that I sat down
and forced myself to think.
Here I was, at her own invitation, to rescue my love.
As my mind began to work I saw that I must be guided
in my course of action by what she told me. Juanita ob-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 191
viously thought that her father's aberration was a form of
madness without foundation. She did not know what I
had discovered. If she did she might reahze that her
father was possibly not so mad as she imagined. For
myself, after this space of time, I can say that I was very
seriously disturbed by Arthur Winstanley's revelations in
regard to the unspeakable Midwinter and the news that he
was now in England. Perhaps you will remember that in
Bill Rolston's telegram to me he hinted at some suspicious
strangers having been seen in the private bar of the "Golden
Swan." One of them, I had ascertained, answered to the
description of Midwinter in every detail, and the two men
were seen by Sliddim to drive away through Richmond Park
in a large, private car.
Certainly I must tell Juanita something of this and help
her to warn her father, perhaps . . .
And then I remembered the elaborate precautions of my
ascent, the literal impossibility of any stranger or strangers
ever getting to where I was, and I breathed again.
The place — one couldn't call it a room — in which I sat,
was simply a little sexagonal nook or retreat, masked from
the great library by its great door of books. Three of the
panels which went from the floor to the vaulted ceiling were
of dead black silk. The other three were of Chinese em-
broidery, stiff, with raised gold, and gems, which I realized
must be from the choicest examples of their kind in the
world. Still, I wasn't interested in dragons of tarnished gold,
with opal eyes, ivory teeth, and scales of lapislazuli. I
was getting restive when the black panel, which was the
192 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
back of the entrance door, swung towards me, and I saw
She was dressed in black, a sort of tea-gown I suppose
you'd call it, though round her shoulders and falling on each
side of her slim form was a cloak of heavy sable.
In her blue-black hair — oh, my dear, how true you were
then to the fashions of the south, and how true you are
to-day — there was a glowing, crimson rose.
We stood and looked at each other, in this tiny room,
for I suppose two or three seconds.
What Juanita felt she told me afterwards, and it isn't
part of this narrative.
What I felt was awe, sheer, impersonal awe, as I realized
that I had surmounted incredible difficulties, endured ages
of longing, plotting, planning, and now stood alone in front
of the most Beautiful Girl in the World.
I saw her as that. I remembered the night at Lady
Brentford's when the league was formed.
And then, thank Heaven, for in another second every-
thing might have been quite spoiled, I remembered that she
was just my Juanita, who had sent for me, and I took her
in my arms and, and . . .
We sat hand in hand upon the odd little Chinese couch.
"Now look here, darling," I said, ''you've told me all
about your Governor. How he says that you must live up
here in this extraordinary place and never go into the world
again. You think him mad, and yet, d'you know, I don't."
"But, my heart—?"
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 193
"I've got to tell you, dearest, that he has more reason
than you think."
She shrugged her shoulders — it was about the most grace-
ful thing I had ever seen in my life.
"But to tell me that I am to be a nun because, if I were
to go back into the world, my life wouldn't be worth a
moment's purchase. Carol It is madness! It cannot be
I didn't quite know how to tell her, and I was consid-
ering, when she went on:
"It is getting dreadful. Father cannot sleep, he prowls
about this nightmare of a place all the night long."
"Sweetheart," I said, "I've been making all sorts of in-
quiries and I've found out that your Governor is really in
serious danger of assassination — or was until he built this
place, to which I think the devil could hardly penetrate
without an invitation. Don't think your father a coward.
Remember what we saw that night in the Ritz Hotel, when
I was just about to tell you that I adored you. No, I'd
lay long odds, Juanita darling, that Mr. Morse is more
afraid for you than for himself. And there I'll back him
up every time."
She laughed, and her laughter was like water falling into
water in paradise!
"I have you," she said; "I have father — what do I care?"
"Quite so," I replied. "I think you take a very sensible
view of it. The obvious thing to do is to relieve your father
by coming with me to-night, while the coast is clear. Lady
Brentford is in town. She will be delighted to receive you.
194 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Once out of the place, we can be free within an hour. To-
morrow morning I can get a special license from the Arch-
bishop of Canterbury and we can be married.
"Once that happens, I'll defy all the Santa Hermandads,
and all the Mark Antony Midwinters in the world, to hurt
you. And as for Mr. Morse, we'll protect him too, in a
far more sensible way than — "
I suppose I had been holding her rather tightly. At any
rate she broke away and stood up in the center of the little
room. The brightness of her face was clouded with thought.
I had not risen and she stared down at me with great,
"So it is true!" she said, nodding her head, "it is true,
father and I are in peril, after all! Names escaped you
just now, I think I have heard one of them before — "
She passed her hand over her brow, like some one awaking
from sleep, and I watched her, fascinafed.
Oh, how lovely she was at that moment, my dear, my
"But, caro, of course I cannot run away with you and
be married. / must stay with father, cannot you see that?"
Well, of course I did, there were no two words about it.
"Very well," I answered, "Little Lady of my heart, I'll stick
by the old chap too. I've crept up here in a sort of under-
hand way, but not for underhand reasons. After all, I've
just as much right to love you as anybody else in this
I took her by her sweet hands and I laughed in her face.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 195
'I'm not the Duke of Perth," I said, "but, but, Juan-
There came a little knocking at the door.
Juanita swirled round, flung up her arm— I saw her sweet
face glowing for an instant— and then she seemed to whirl
away like an autumn leaf.
The only thing I could possibly do was to light a cigarette.
Juanita, having met me, having delivered her ultimatum,
having turned me into a jelly, flitted away quite oblivious
of the fact that I was a burglar, an intruder into what was
probably the most guarded and secret place in Europe at
My heart sang high music, and that was well. But at the
same time I recognized that I was in the deuce of a mess
and had planned out no course of action at all.
I prayed, almost audibly, for Pu-Yi.
But nobody came. There I was in the sexagonal room,
with the gold dragons with their jeweled eyes leering at me.
A dull anger welled up within me. On every side, men-
tally as well as physically, I seemed baffled, hemmed in.
I determined, at any risk to myself, to get out into the
library. I took two steps towards the door through which
Juanita had gone, when I heard a sharp snap just be-
I whipped round, clutching the only weapon I had—
which was a brass knuckle-duster in the side pocket of my
coat, and then I stood absolutely still.
One of the dragon panels had rolled up like a theater
196 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
curtain, and standing in what appeared to be the end of
a passage, was the great brute Mulligan, with a Winchester
rifle at his shoulder, covering me.
As a man does in the presence of imminent danger, I
swerved out of the line of the deadly barrel.
As I did so — click! A second panel disappeared, and
I was confronted by Gideon Morse, his hands in the pockets
of his dinner jacket, his mouth faintly smiling, his eyes
Imagine it! let the picture appear to you of the fool,
Thomas Kirby, trapped like a rat!
Once, twice I swallowed in my throat, and I swear it
wasn't from fear but only from an enormous, immeasurable
I turned to Morse.
"You've been listening," I said, "you and your servant
"I have been listening, Sir Thomas Kirby, that's true.
I have every right to. When a man breaks into my house
without my knowledge and makes clandestine love to my
daughter, he's not the person to accuse one of eavesdrop-
ping. As for my servant there, you do me an injustice,
which I find harder to forgive than anything, when you
suggest that I allowed him to overhear what passed in
this room just now. He was not at his post until Juanita
had been gone from here some seconds. Mulligan, you
can go now. Sir Thomas, please come with me into the
There was something so magnetic about this strange
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 197
and compelling personality that I followed him without
"Then you knew," I asked in a husky voice, "you knew
all the time?"
"Yes," he said, "I arranged a little comedy. The faith-
ful Mulligan was not drugged at all, and I did everything
to facilitate your entrance."
"Then that treacherous cur, Pu-Yi, was playing with me
the whole time! And yet I could have sworn that he was
genuine. When I meet him — "
"You will shake hands with him if you are a wise man.
Pu-Yi was absolutely genuine, but he, in common with my
daughter, knew nothing of the truth until you told it him.
He had believed me a madman. Then he understood not
only the peril in which I was, and am, but also that of my
daughter. Do you think, Kirby, that I should have built
these towers, let imagination transcend itself, made myself
the cynosure of Europe, unless I was sure of what I was
doing? Now, alas, you've told Juanita, and brought terror
into her life as well as mine."
"Sir," I said, "her relief is greater than any fear. I'll
answer for that."
I faced him fair and square.
"God knows," I said, "I'm not worth a single glance of
her sweet eyes, but somehow or other she loves me, though
she wouldn't fly with me when I suggested it."
"She has some decent feeling left," he answered, with a
dry chuckle. "Well, I overheard everything that passed in
198 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
that little room and I must say I rather appreciate the
way in which you behaved. You are a rapid thinker, Sir
Thomas. What suggests itself to you as the next move in
"Quite obvious, sir. You give your consent to my en-
gagement with your daughter. You please her, you bind
me to your interests by hoops of steel — though as a mat-
ter of fact I'm bound already — and you add a not invalua-
ble auxiliary to your staff."
"Very well," he said, perfectly calmly, and held out his
hand. "Now come and have some supper and tell me all
Then that astonishing man thrust his arm through mine
and led me down the great library.
"What a marvelous intellect that fellow Pu-Yi has," he
said confidentially. "He saw the situation in all its bear-
ings, from all sides at once, and made an instant decision.
I'll tell you now, Kirby, that he actually predicted every
detail of what has just come to pass. He told me that he
owed you his life and was perfectly ready to die for you,
as of course for me and my daughter, but that it had oc-
curred to him that his living for all three of us might be
by far the wisest attitude to adopt under the circumstances.
I quite agree with him."
Then again came the little dry, strange chuckle.
"But no more peddling poppy-juice to my Chinese, my
boy. It plays the devil with their nerves in the end!"
Morse and I sat at supper in a room which differed in no
way from the ordinary study of a country gentleman. Ex-
cept for the very slightest suggestion rather than sensation
of vibration, which my host explained was the drag of the
City on the three great towers which perpetually oscillated
out of the perpendicular, and so insured the safety of the
vast elastic structure, there was nothing to indicate
that we were two thousand two hundred feet up in the
Our meal was of the simplest, and during it I told Morse,
without reservation, all that I had heard from Arthur
"He has the outline very correctly. I'll fill it in later.
How long has Lord Arthur been in London?"
"About five days, I believe."
"Time for many preparations to be made if they're going
to strike quickly," he said, more to himself than to me,
drumming his fingers on the tablecloth.
Then he looked up.
"And these two men who were seen to-day in the bar
of your public house?"
"One, sir, was undoubtedly Midwinter. My very sharp-
witted informant describes the other man as a swarthy per-
200 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
son of just over middle height and apparently of great
personal strength. He was bearded, sallow-faced, and had
somewhat the appearance of a half-caste."
"Zorilla y Toro, as I expected," said Morse. "Zorilla
the Bull, as he is known in half the Republics of South
"No doubt," I remarked, "a formidable pair of ruffians,
but remember that I saw you deal with one of them at
any rate, that night at the Ritz Hotel. The way he legged
it out of the drawing-room wouldn't have inspired me with
any particular fear of him."
Morse struck the table with his hand.
"I wish I'd sent a bullet through his heart instead of
playing fancy fireworks round him. But I feared London
and your colossal law and order. It's perfectly true, he
didn't influence me in the least on that night. He came
to sell his employers, to sell the Hermandad for a hun-
dred thousand pounds."
"It would have been cheaper than this." I waved my
hand to indicate the expensive crow's-nest of my future
"It wouldn't have made the least difference," he said.
"The man couldn't hurt me at the time because he had to
obey the orders of the villainous Society at his back. The
old Marquis da Silva, who is simply a tool in their hands,
insisted that I was not to be even interfered with in any
way until the two years of grace from my first warning
were up. Though their object was to get hold of half my
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 201
fortune, and Midwinter's to revenge himself personally upon
me, the Society and he didn't dare do anything until the
moment struck. There were too many political issues still
"That's why I made Mr. Mark Antony Midwinter dance
out of the Ritz Hotel on that night."
"It's what Arthur Winstanley said."
"That young man will go far. Now, Kirby, I think you
understand everything, and you've got to throw in your
lot with Juanita and me, for a time at any rate, and never
say you didn't know what you were up against."
I took a glass of claret and lit a cigarette.
"I understand the facts, as you say, but I don't under-
stand you. Allowing for all your natural and deep anxiety
about Juanita, I simply fail to understand why you regard
this Midwinter and his companion or companions with such
apprehension. Surely you could have the man locked up
to-morrow, knowing what you know about him."
Morse sighed, with a sort of gentle patience.
"A few more facts," he said; "and do reflect that it's
most improbable that a man of my intelligence and resources
should act as he has done without being sure of what
he was doing. In the first place, I've had Midwinter
watched by the most famous detectives in America, watched
for years. None of these people have ever been able quite
to bowl him out — a simile from your English game of
cricket. But three of the most trusted and acute agents
have lost their lives during these investigations, and lost
them in a singularly unpleasant manner."
202 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
He sighed again, this time wearily, and I saw that his
face was old and without interest or hope.
"What on earth is the use," he went on, "of telling you
all I know about this man? Sir" — his voice began to rise,
and a light came into the dark depths of his eyes — "Sir, if
I saw his corpse before me now, I wouldn't believe him
dead or his power for evil ended until I had hacked his head
from his shoulders with my own hand! You cannot, I say
you simply cannot realize or understand the fiendish in-
genuity, persistence, and icy cruelty of this being, for I
will not insult our common humanity by calling it a man.
If Juanita ever gets into his hands — "
His mouth, his whole face, was working, I thought he
was going to have a fit, and truth to tell, something icy began
to congeal around my own heart.
"Calm yourself, sir," I said, as authoritatively as I
could. "Juanita is doubly safe now that I am here, and as
for IVIidwinter, he'll never approach us here. It's beyond
the wit of mortal man, and, meanwhile, I'll see that he's
apprehended and removed from all power of doing harm.
I am only a young man, Mr. Morse, but I'm rather a power
in the land. You see I have an important newspaper at
my back, and as for you, who have already made the Gov-
ernment feed out of your hand in the matter of these towers,
you should have gone to the Home Secretary in the first
instance. At any rate, we'll go together, and believe me,
we shall be listened to."
"I thank you, my dear boy," he replied with an effort,
"but there is such a thing as Fate, and Fate has whispered
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 203
in my ear. I am not naturally a superstitious man, but
during a life spent in strange places among strange people
I have learnt to be very wary of a material interpretation
of life. But this I will say, whatever I feel about myself,
however my precautions might fail, I believe that my dear
daughter will win to safety in the end, that the power of
evil will be overcome, and that you will be her savior."
I could have sworn, as he shook hands and bade me
good-night, there was a tear in the great man's eye, and I
wondered how long it was since any one had seen that in
this master of millions and of men.
A picturesque young Chinaman, a valet in flowing Orien-
tal robes, who spoke English with the most appalling cockney
accent you ever heard in your life, conducted me to a charm-
ing bedroom, provided me with everything necessary, and
m five minutes I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
A really full day, wasn't it?
When I woke up the next morning my room was flooded
with sunshine from a dome in the ceiling.
Seated upon my bed, and balancing I cup of tea, was
Master Bill Rolston. His hair was restored to its natural
red, his nose normal, and his high cheek-bones were gone
On each side of his chubby face his transparent ears stood
out at right angles, and his button of a mouth was wreathed
in a genial smile.
"Good old Pu-Yi came for me about two o'clock this
morning. Sir Thomas, and told me all that had happened.
I say, sir, what a man to have on the staff of the Evening
204 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Special! What an intellect!" — I seemed to have heard that
phrase before. "Why, we'd have him dictating to Cabinet
Ministers within a year!"
I lay idly watching this brilliant and faithful boy; jour-
nalist once, I reflected, journalist forever. There's no get-
ting it out of the blood, and here, if I'm not mistaken, when
many of us have faded away from Fleet Street forever,
will be the biggest of us all.
I was surprised to find that Bill was distinctly on the side
of Gideon Morse in his anticipation of evil. We argued it
out while I was dressing and I insisted that the City was
"To all ordinary appearance, to all ordinary efforts, yes.
But I shall never change my belief that there's nothing
that human wit can invent that human wit cannot circum-
After breakfast, which I took alone, the servant led me
to a great white house standing among conservatories, which
I learned was almost an exact reproduction of the Palacete
Mendoza, the residence of Gideon Morse at Rio. And there,
in her own charming sitting-room, fragrant with flowers and
stamped in a hundred ways with her personality, Juanita
was waiting. She was radiant. Happiness lay about her like
sunbeams. I never saw any one more changed than she
was from the girl I had met the night before.
"Come, dearest," she said, "and I'll show you some of
our wonders. I could not show you all of them in one day.
Oh, Tom, isn't it all splendid, couldn't you sing and shout
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 205
I helped her into a fur coat — for it was bitter cold out-
side, though the wind of the night before had dropped
— and was provided with one myself as we left the house.
Standing in the patio was a little two-seated automobile,
a tiny toy of a thing run from electric storage batteries,
which made no noise louder than the humming of a wasp.
We got into this and Juanita was like a child as she pulled
the starting lever and we rolled away.
I have said I woke to find my bedroom full of sunlight,
but, as we glided down an arcade of conservatories, upon
each side of the road, so that the illusion of passing among
a palm grove was almost complete, I noticed that dark and
angry clouds were gathering not far above our heads, and
it was through one single aperture that the sunlight poured.
The effect of this, when we ran through the tunneled arch-
way and came out into a great square, was curious. A
third of the buildings which towered up on every side were
bathed in glory, the rest, gray, sullen, and throwing shadows
of sable upon the lawns, gravel sweeps, and parquet flooring.
We investigated a dozen marvels of which I shall not speak
here. The whole experience was a dream of luxury so won-
derful, and so fantastic also, that my readers must wait for
William Rolston's book, now nearing completion. It was
impossible to believe that we were actually walking, mo-
toring, more than two thousand feet above London in a
little world of our own which bore no relation whatever to
ordinary human life.
This was especially borne in upon me with overwhelming
force when we had ascended the steps of a tower and came
2o6 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
out into a glass chamber on the roof, where an old Chinese
gentleman with tortoise-shell spectacles showed us the great
telescope which Morse had installed. Following the shift-
ing path of sunlight, I got a dim glimpse of the English
Channel over a far-flung champaign of fertile woods and
downs, studded here and there with toy towns the size of
threepenny-pieces. Once, but only for a moment, I made
out the great towers of Canterbury Cathedral, but the sun
shifted and the vision passed. London itself, brought
immediately to our feet, was an astonishing sight, but as
every one has seen the photographs taken from aeroplanes
I will not dilate upon it, though it differed in many ways
Perhaps the most pleasing sight of all was that of Rich-
mond Park, where the winter Fair had just begun. We
could see the roundabouts, the swings, and so forth, with
great clearness, and even, as the wind freshened, catch a
faint buzzing noise from the steam organs. Then a cap-
tive balloon rose up, I suppose a thousand feet, and some
quarter of a mile away. With powerful field glasses we
could see the big basket crammed with adventurous trip-
pers, till she was hauled down again to make another
ascent and add a few more pounds to the profits of her
I was quite tired when we went back to the house to
During the meal, which was long and elaborate, Morse
showed a side of his nature I had never before seen. He
was not jovial or in high spirits — distinctly not that — but
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 207
he was strangely tender and human. I realized the immense
love he had for Juanita, and wondered how he could ever
bear to see her love me. But he was kindness itself —
like a father, to the interloper who had stormed his fortress,
and I always like to think of him as he was on that after-
noon, full of anecdotes about his youth, of Juanita's mother,
of the old days in Brazil. It was my formal whole-hearted
reception into his life. Henceforth I was to be — ^he said
it once in well and delicately-chosen words — a son to him,
who had never had a son.
In the afternoon I went back to my own quarters, which
consisted of a villa at the end of the Palace gardens, where
I was lodged with Rolston, and attended by various well-
trained Chinamen. I had rarely seen a more delightful
bachelor dwelling. I took a cup of tea with Bill about
four o'clock. It was now quite dark, and the bitter wind
was rising again, but heavy curtains of tussore silk were
pulled over the windows, a fire of yew logs burned in the
open hearth, and softly shaded electric lights all combined
to produce the coziest and most homelike effect it is pos-
sible to imagine.
It was then that a man came in to say that Mr. Pu-Yi
begged the honor of an audience.
Bill vanished, and my thin, ascetic friend glided in, and
at my invitation sank into a chair by the fire. I don't
think, in the whole course of my life, I could recall a con-
versation which touched, interested, and excited my admira-
tion more than this, and I have met every one "from Em-
peror to Clown." He apologized profoundly for his seem-
2o8 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
ing treachery. With a wealth of lucid self-analysis and the
power of presenting a clear statement which I have seldom
heard equaled, he showed how he was torn between his
new-born debtorship to me, his loyalty to Morse, for whom
he professed a profound esteem, and — here he hinted with
extraordinary finesse — his mute adoration for Juanita.
"It was. Sir Thomas, touch and go, of course. I was in
the position of a surgeon who has to risk everything upon
one heroic stroke of the knife. I did so, and behold, all
the conflicting elements are reconciled. The pieces of the
puzzle have come together."
"My friend," I said, "betray me twenty million times
if you can bring me such happiness as you have brought.
Besides, it wasn't a betrayal, it was a great brain leading
a smaller one to its appointed goal."
We talked a little more, he drank tea, he smoked, and,
to my growing discomfort, I found in him the same note of
pessimism and apprehension that Morse could not conceal,
and Rolston himself had partially revealed.
"But I icon't believe that any harm can come to Miss
Morse," I said, almost angrily.
The thin lips smiled.
"That I never said, Sir Thomas. There are no indica-
tions of that. You and your lady are in peril, but you
will win through."
"Confound it, man, your liver must be out of order.
It seems to me that captivity in this magnificent bird-cage
has the same effect on every one. I shall get Morse to
come and hunt with me in the Shires. I've got a nice little
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 209
box in Gloucestershire, close to Chipping Norton, and by-
Jove, Pu-Yi, I'll mount you and give you a run with the
Heythrope. You talk as if you actually knew something.
As if you had information of a calamity."
*'I hear it in the wind," he said strangely, and his voice
was like a withered leaf blown before the wind. Then
he left me.
I dined with Juanita and her father. Bill was asked too,
and he kept my girl, and sometimes even Mr. Morse, in
fits of laughter with stories of his short but erratic career,
and especially a racy account of his illicit opium-selling
"You see, sir," he said, "you brought it on yourself, by
kidnaping me in the first instance. I had to get my own
Morse's face clouded over for a moment.
"It was a disgraceful thing to do," he said. "I quite admit
it, but had the necessity arisen I'd have kidnaped George
Robey or the Prince of Wales," and from that moment
always I seemed to see that a faint but perceptible shadow
was creeping over his spirits.
We had a little music, in a charming room built for
the purpose. Juanita played upon the guitar and sang little
Spanish love songs. Bill "obliged" with a ditty which he
said was a favorite of the revered Charles Lamb, which
seemed to consist entirely of the following lines:
"Diddle-diddle-dumpHng, my son John
Went to bed with his breeches on,"
2IO THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I think that when Juanita said good-night to us all — and
to me privately in the passage — she went to bed quite
happy and cheerful.
About half-past ten Bill slipped off and I remained to
smoke a final cigar with Morse,
"I'm low, Thomas," he said, "I'm very low to-night."
I made him take a little whisky and potash — a thing he
"It's the unnatural life, sir, that you've condemned your-
self to recently. You come out of this and hunt with me
in Gloucestershire and I'll protect you as well as you're
protected here, and you'll get as right as rain."
"You're very kind," he replied, "but — take care of her,
Kirby, for God's sake, take care of her. She'll have no
one else in the world but you if they get me or Pu-Yi."
I was about to expostulate again when the door opened
and Boss Mulligan slouched in.
"Been all round the City, governor, with the usual patrol.
Everything quiet, nothing unusual anywhere. All the serv-
ants have given in their tallies and are safe in their
Morse looked at me.
"That's our system, Tom," he said. "At a certain hour
all the servants go to the lower stage, except those that may
be urgently wanted. For instance, there's a fellow in your
house to valet you to-night. Juanita has her little Spanish
maid, and I think Pu-Yi keeps some one. Otherwise we
are all to ourselves up here. All the lift doors are locked
on the second stage and so is the central staircase. Mulligan
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 211
here is on guard all night in the room where you saw him."
"An' watchin' ye from the ind of me eye, Sorr Thomas,"
said the genial ruffian, "av ye'll belave ut."
''You're a good actor, Mulligan," I said — it seemed about
the only thing I could say.
"Sure, an' I am that," he said, "I am that, sorr, but
I'm a bether doer. An' av ye'd reely bin staling in — "
His immense fist clenched itself and he shook it in my
"Mulligan, go back to the guard-room," said Morse,
The giant's face changed from ferocity into pained sur-
"But av course, sorr," he said, "it's me usual time, as
your honor must know. But begob, I'm efficient!"
The mingled grin and glare on his countenance when IMr.
Mulligan went away left no doubt in my mind about that.
A few minutes afterwards, certainly not drunk, and I
hope efficient, I left the Palacete Mendoza, and walked
through the gardens to the villa. Morse himself barred
the door after me.
It was bitter, aching cold and the wind was razor-keen.
Gaunt wreaths of mist were all around like a legion of
ghosts, and I realized that the clouds were descending upon
us, and soon I should not be able to see a yard before me,
though the electric lamps that never went out all night, over
the whole City, glowed with a dim blueness here and there
through the fog. '
However, I found the villa all right, and my Chinese boy
212 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
waiting in the hall. He took my coat, saw that the fires
in the sitting-room and the adjoining bedroom were made
up, and then I told him he might be off to his quarters on
the second stage, for which he seemed extremely thankful.
I don't suppose he had been gone more than a minute
when the door of my sitting-room opened and Rolston came
in quickly. He was wearing a dressing-gown and pyjamas
and his hair was all rough like one recently aroused from
"What on earth's the matter?" I said.
"I undressed," he said, "in my bedroom, which is just
above yours as you know, and fell asleep in my chair with
all the lights on, I woke only a short time ago, and before
switching off the lamps I went to the window to see what
sort of a night it was."
"Hellish, if you want to know."
"The light streamed out upon a great curtain of mist,
almost like the projector lamp upon a screen of a kinema.
Sir Thomas, as I stood there I could swear that something
big, black and oblong sank down from that darkness above,
passed through my zone of light and disappeared in the
"What on earth do you mean, what sort of a thing?" J
He hesitated for a moment and then he said: '
"Almost like a group of statuary, though I only saw it for
a mere instant."
He had obviously been half dreaming when he went to
the window, his eyes, even now, were heavy with sleep.
"Simply and solely a trick of the wind upon the mist,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 213
and your own figure interposing between the light and the
window, and throwing a momentary shade on the swaying
white curtain outside. The mist's as thick as linen and
it changes every moment. You go to bed properly, and
sleep the sleep of the just."
He didn't attempt to argue, but looked a little ashamed
of himself for obtruding for such a trivial reason. Ten
minutes afterwards I was also in bed and fast asleep.
I HAD ordered my Chinese boy to wake me at eight. In
one corner of the Grand Square was a beautifully fitted
gymnasium with a swimming-bath adjoining. I proposed
three-quarters of an hour's vigorous exercise before dressing.
At it happens I generally wake more or less at the time
I want to. This morning, however, it was half-past eight.
There was no sound of Chang whatever. I got out of bed,
put on a sweater, Norfolk jacket, flannel trousers, and
tennis shoes — I had sent for a portmanteau of clothes from
the "Golden Swan" — went across the hall and let myself out
into the gardens.
Then I hesitated in amazement. A thick, heavy, impene-
trable mist hid everything from sight. It seemed as solid
as wool. One literally had to push one's way through it,
and when I say that I couldn't see more than a yard before
my face, I mean it in the strict sense of the words. Still,
I remembered that I have a good sense of topography, and
I was quite confident that I could find my way to the
central Square, where there would be sure to be people about
whom I could ask.
From my front door there was a good hundred and twenty
yards of wide gravel path to the Palacete Mendoza. I
sprinted up this in less than twenty seconds I should say,
and then warily turned into the palm-tree grove — the great
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 215
sheets of plated glass on either side of the way were in
place now, but I knew where I was because of the different
quality of the ground, which was here paved with wood
blocks. Soon, a faint gray mass to my right, the palace
itself loomed up, but the blanket of mist was too thick for
me to discern windows or doors. One could see nothing
but the gray hint of mass.
The curious thing was that one could hear nothing either.
That had not struck me as I did my sprint, but now it did,
and most forcibly. Of course there was no sound of wind
— had there been any wind we should not have been buried
in the very heart of this fog — thicker and more sticky than
anything I had ever experienced in the Alps themselves.
But there were no sounds of occupation such as an exten-
sive place like the City might have been expected to pro-
duce at this hour, and in fact, as I realized, did produce,
when I remembered yesterday. The place was never noisy.
It was a haunt of peace if ever there was one. But the
sound of gardeners and servants going about their daily
toil, the distant throbbing of an engine perhaps, a subdued
voice giving an order, the plashing of foimtains, and the
strains of music, all these were utterly and entirely absent.
It was as though the mist killed not only vision but hearing
also. I might have been on the top of Mont Blanc.
"What little town bj' harbor or sea-shore
Is empty of its folk this pious morn?"
I quoted to myself with a laugh, just as I entered the arched
tunnel wide enough for two coaches to be driven under it
abreast, which I knew led to Grand Square.
2i6 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I laughed, and then quite suddenly all laughter went out
of me. I couldn't explain it at the moment, but the mist,
the loneliness, my whole surroimdings, seemed quite hor-
Surely something had passed me? I called out, and my
voice seemed like the bleating of a sheep. Of course, it
was illusion. My nerves had suddenly gone wrong. But,
honestly, I felt that there was something nasty in the atmos-
phere, nasty from a psychic point of view I mean. There
are moments when the human soul turns sick and retches
with disgust, and I experienced such a moment now. I
think it was exactly then that I knew, though I wouldn't
allow myself to believe it, that I knew inwardly all was
not well. I walked on and my india-rubber shoes seemed
to make a sly, unpleasant noise — it was the only one I
heard even now.
I could see nothing, I was quite uncertain of where I
was, so I turned and walked straight to the right until,
from the impact of the air upon my face, I knew that I
was within a yard or so of some building. This was cor-
rect. My hand touched what seemed like stonework, and
glancing up I became aware that a building rose high
I followed this along, keeping my hand on the stone, mov-
ing it round projecting buttresses and going with great cau-
tion. This insect-like progression seemed to be endless. I
took out my watch, which I had shoved into the breast
pocket of my Norfolk jacket. It was nearly nine o'clock,
and not a single sound!
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 217
A second or two afterwards I came to a balustrade, felt
my way along it, and found that I was at the foot of a
broad flight of steps. There seemed something vaguely
familiar here, and as I ran up them I began to be sure that
I was at the library. I knew that Pu-Yi lived somewhere
on the premises and I felt all over the great iron-studded
door until I came to the small postern wicket through which
one generally entered. This was locked, but a bell-pull of
wrought iron hung at the side and I pulled at it lustily for
a considerable time.
It opened with a jerk and Pu-Yi stood there in his skull
cap with the coral button on the top and wrapped in a
"Thank goodness I've foimd some one," I said. "I've lost
my way. I was going to the gymnasium, to exercise a little
and then have a swim. My boy didn't turn up so I came
out by myself."
"Come in, come in. Sir Thomas," he said, peering out at
the white curtain. "What a dreadful morning! I've been
here some months now, but I have never seen it so bad as
this. I daresay it will blow off by nine o'clock or so when
the sun gets up."
"It's nine o'clock now," I told him.
He started violently.
"Then my servant also is at fault," he said. "I
ordered my coffee for eight. I was reading far into the
night and must have overslept myself. This is very curi-
"Do you know, I don't quite like it, Pu-Yi. I've come
2i8 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
all the way from the pavilion in the Palace gardens and
haven't heard the least sound of any sort whatever,"
We passed through a lobby and entered the great library,
which was cold and gray as a tomb.
Pu-Yi snapped at a switch, then at another. Nothing
"The electric light is off!" he cried. "What an extraor-
"Mine wasn't," I said. "I got out of bed and dressed
He did not reply, but took down the speaking part of
a telephone and turned the handle of the box. In that
gray light his thin face, with its expression of strained
attention, was one I shall not easily forget.
He turned the handle again, angrily. Again an interval
"The telephone is out of order," he said, and we looked
at each other with a question in our eyes.
"Well, I'm confoundedly glad I've found you," I said.
"We must look into this at once. Sir Thomas. I can
find my way perfectly well to one of the lifts at the other
end of the Square. We must summon assistance. One
moment." He vanished for a minute and returned with
something cool and shining which he pressed into my hand.
It was a venomous ten-shot Colt automatic. "You never
know," he whispered.
We hurried across the great Square, passing by the central
fountain basins, though the fountains were not playing,
which added to our uneasiness. Everything was deathly
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 219
still until we came to the little lift pavilion. I half ex-
pected the thing to stick, but it glided down easily enough.
As if my companion read my thoughts he said:
"All these small lifts are not electrical, but are worked
by hydraulic power, the station for which is in the City
and not below on the earth."
I shall never forget the extraordinary sight as we stepped
from the lift. The mist here was nothing like so thick as
it was above. This was owing to the fact that a hundred
feet above our heads there was the immense ceiling of
steel plates and girders upon which the City rested. As I
said before, on all three sides this second service City was
open to the air, but not above. Consequently the mist
moved in tall white shapes like ghosts; it entirely sur-
rounded one group of huts and left another great vista
of buildings plain to the eye. Here a gaudily painted gable
thrust itself out of the white sheet; there, through a
proscenium of clinging wool, one saw the gray interior of
a machine-room. A chill twilight brooded everywhere.
There wasn't a single lamp burning, and from one end to
the other lay the desolation of utter silence.
I leant against the jamb of the lift door, and, despite
the cold, the sweat ran down my body in a stream.
Pu-Yi raised a thin arm over his head and it seemed to
clutch crookedly at the somber panoply aloft.
A high, thin wail came from his parted lips and went
mournfully away down the deserted streets and empty habi-
For myself, I had been so stunned that I couldn't think,
220 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
but my friend's despairing call seemed to jerk some cog-
wheel within the brain and start again the mechanism of
I gripped him by the shoulder.
'There isn't a soul here," I rasped out, "What does
it mean, what on earth does it mean?"
"There should be three hundred at least," he answered.
I broke away at a run, flung open the first door I came
to and peered in. It was some sort of a sleeping-room, there
were bunks and couches all around the walls. Each one
of them was empty. I had time to see that, and also that
a stand of short carbines and cutlasses was full of weapons.
Then I had to back out quickly for the late inmates had
left an odorous legacy behind them.
Pu-Yi faced me.
"That was one of the patrol rooms," he said.
Then I remembered our coming two days ago.
"Mulligan!" I cried. "Nobody could get here except
through the guard-room, nobody could leave here except
through that, could they?"
"Not unless they threw themselves from the side of the
"Well, it's quite impossible to believe that three hundred
people have committed suicide during the night without a
sound being heard. Quick! let's get to the bottom of
Pu-Yi led. He didn't seem really to run, only to glide
along the ghostly streets and passages. But I had hard
work to keep up with him, aU the same. My mouth felt
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 221
as if it had been sucking a brass tap. The most deadly
fear clutched at my heart — that noiseless, pattering run
through the deserted town in the air, accompanied always by
the mouthing, gibbering ghosts of the mist, was appalling.
We dashed down the last corridor and were brought up
by a stout door. Pu-Yi bent down to the handle, turned
it gently, and — it opened.
We tiptoed into that room. Directly I was over the
threshold, the spiritual odor of death, of violent death, came
A fire of logs was still burning redly upon the hearth.
For the rest the room was lit only by its skylight, through
which filtered a dirty and opaque illumination which was
only sufficient to give every object a shape of the sinister
or bizarre. The red glow from the fire glistened upon the
polished screen of steel which divided the room into two
portions. And it also fell, redly, upon something else.
This was the corpse of Mulligan,
It was seated in a chair which had been pulled up to the
screen with its back towards it, as if in mockery and deri-
sion of its power to keep it.
He had been strangled by a yard of catgut, twisted, tour-
niquet-fashion, by a piece of stick at the back of the neck.
The catgut had sunk far into the flesh, reducing the neck
to less than half its ordinary size, and the great staring head
hung down upon one shoulder.
One of the logs in the grate fell with a crackle of sparks.
For the rest, dead silence.
'The}^ have come," Pu-Yi said simply.
222 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"But Avhat has happened?" I whispered, my throat was
so dry that the sound was like the rustling of paper.
"I shall know soon. I am going to find out. There is
not a minute to lose. Can you, dare you, wait here — "
I nodded and he was out of the room in a flash. Upon
the dead man's table was the usual array of bottles and
glasses. I took some brandy and gulped it down and
my brain cleared instantly. There was a little touch of
infinite pathos even in this hideous moment, for by the side
of an empty glass I saw a string of beads with a little metal
crucifix. The Irishman, a Roman Catholic of course, must
have been saying his prayers some time before he met his
end. Somehow the thought comforted me and gave me
power to act. I found a knife, and cut the bonds that tied
the giant to the chair. I lowered him reverently to the
floor and finally severed the horrible ligature around his
throat. An examination of the steel door in the screen of
bars showed that it was securely locked, but the bunch of
keys which the dead man usually carried upon a chain was
no longer there — the end of the chain dangled from his
While I was doing these things a most deadly appre-
hension was standing specter-like by my side and plucking
with wan fingers at my sleeve. What had happened, what
might even now be happening at the Palacete Mendoza?
Pu-Yi whirled into the room. He made no noise, it was
as though a dried leaf had been blown in by the wind. His
face was transformed. Every outline was sharpened, and
the color was changed until it bore the exact resemblance to
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 223
a mask of green bronze. In its frozen immobility it was
dead, yet awfully alive, and the eyes glittered like little
crumbs of diamond.
"I know how it has been done. It is very clever, very
clever indeed. Let me tell you that all the power cables
connecting us with below have been scientifically cut. We
can neither telephone down to the Park nor can we de-
scend to it in one of the lifts. We are isolated up here in
"But the men, the staff?" I gasped, and then I stepped
back, staring down at his hands. They were all foul and
stained with blood.
"Not far away," he said, "there is another body, that
of my servant, a youth from my own Province, whom I
loved and whom I was educating. He was alive five minutes
ago. He had just time to sob out the truth and his repent-
"Tell me quickly, Pu-Yi, time presses."
"They caught him last night, so they must have been
"Who caught him?"
"He never knew. They were masked, but there were
two of them, and from his description we know very well
who they were. Sir Thomas, they tortured him for a
long time until he spoke, promising him freedom if he did
so. His story was disjointed, gasped out with his dying
breath, but I can put it together pretty well.
"They made him give an order by telephone from the
224 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
upper City that, immediately, the staff were to leave here
and descend to the ground and await further orders, all
but Mulligan, who was to remain at his post until I came
to him. This message was delivered in Chinese to the man
at the telephone exchange, and the poor boy was forced
to counterfeit my voice. He was blindfolded immediately
afterwards, but he heard a man speaking, and he said he
could not have told the voice from that of Mr. Morse."
In a flash I saw the whole thing, in its devilish ingenuity,
its fiendish completeness.
"Then we are absolutely alone, you, I, Mr. Rolston, Mr.
Morse and his daughter?"
"And her maid," he answered quietly.
"At the mercy of — "
"That we have yet to prove. We must throw all emo-
tion, all fear aside. That's what we have to do now. It's
diamond cut diamond. There's one problem in my mind,
and one only."
"What's that, quick!"
"I daresay that in an hour I could get down to the
ground. Among the intricate steelwork of this tower there's
a tiny circular staircase of open lattice-work, sufficient for
the passage of one person only, and even here, every three
or four hundred feet the way is barred by locked gates,
though I have a master key to all of them. Shall I make
the attempt, and risk crashing off into space — for it is a
mere steeplejack's way — and summon assistance, which may
well be another hour in arriving, for the tower cables have
been scientifically cut and no one but an electrician could
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 225
repair them? Or shall I rush with you to defend the
"You leave the decision to me?"
"It is in your hands, Prince."
"Then, old chap, tumble down this accursed tower, hell
for leather, and rouse the pack. If I and Morse and Bill
Rolston cannot account for these cowardly assassins, then
one more man won't make any difference."
So I said, so I thought. I had no idea into what peril I
was sending him, though I have sometimes wondered if
he knew. He took my hand, kissed it, and beckoning me,
we hurried through the silent under City towards the lift.
"You go up. Sir Thomas," he said, "and exercise the ut-
most care. Have your pistol ready. The mist is as thick
as ever, which is in your favor. You can find your way
now to the Palace, I am sure."
"I go off here," he said, pointing with his left arm down
a long vista to where, under a square arch, there was noth-
ing to be seen at all but swa5dng yellow-white. "One opens
the gate in the railing and drops on to the circular stairs,"
he said, "which cling to the outside of the steel-work all
the way down like a little train of ivy."
"Au revoir, be as quick as you can."
"Good-by," and I jumped into the elevator.
Some two minutes afterwards, when I was creeping
through the wool with my pistol in my hand, alert for the
slightest sound around me, I heard the sharp crack of a
rifle. It came from behind me. There was a perceptible
226 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
interval and then another crack, followed, I could have
sworn to it, by a thin wailing cry.
Then utter silence fell once more upon the white and
As I ran I tried to steel myself, if that were as I sus-
pected, the last dying cry of Pu-Yi, not to think about it.
The immediate moment, the immediate future, these were
All the extraordinary precautions had failed. The assas-
sins were here! In what force? How had they come? —
though that was useless to speculate on. Two things only
remained, I must warn Morse if it was not already too late,
must avenge him if it was. I resolutely put aside the
thought of Juanita — of any personal feeling which might
mar my judgment and unstring my nerves at this supreme
and dreadful moment.
I found myself, somehow or other, at the entrance to the
tunneled passage. Save for my own quick breathing there
had not been a sound, and the horrible curtain of the fog
was as thick as ever. Should I at once creep up to the
Palace, or should I go back to the villa and find Rolston?
It was a nice question and the decision had to be instan-
taneous, I decided that it would give me a tremendous
advantage to have him with me, and besides that, he him-
self must be warned of the terror that lurked in the dark-
ness of the cloud.
I arrived without any mishap, pushed open the door and
was crossing the dark hall when my foot caught in some
obstruction and I fell headlong. There was no time to
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 227
cry out, had I been startled enough to do so, before some-
thing leapt upon my back with a soft yet heavy thud. A
hand slipped over my mouth and the round barrel of a
pistol was pressed into my neck.
I lay helpless, thinking that it was all over, when the
weight lifted, the pistol was snatched away and I was hauled
to my feet to discover — Rolston.
"Not a word," he whispered. "I set a trap in the hall,
Sir Thomas. Thank God you are alive!"
"Thank God you are too. Bill, they've strangled Mulli-
gan, killed another Chinese by torture and I am very much
afraid have shot Pu-Yi as he was trying to get down to
earth to summon help.
"Every single member of the staff is down in the Park
with orders to stay there — false orders. The lifts are all
put out of action beyond possibility of being repaired for
several hours. That's how things stand. Now we must
get to the Palace as quickly as we possibly can. God
knows what has happened or may be happening there."
"This way, quick!" he said, when he had listened to me
with strained attention.
He took my arm, hurried me into the back part of the
house, opened a door with a key and we entered a bedroom
which I had not before seen. The windows were shuttered and
curtained but the electric light — which never failed either
my villa or the Palace during the whole of those terrible
hours — made every detail clear. Upon the bed, lying as if
asleep, was Juanita. Leaning over her was a tall, elderly,
hard-featured French woman with a typical Norman face.
228 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I staggered back into Bill Rolston's arms.
"Good God!" I cried, and then, "She's not dead, tell me
she's not dead!"
Marie, the French maid, turned.
"She's perfectly well, M'sieu, only she's had a fainting
fit and I've given her something to keep her quiet."
She spoke in French.
"Then how do you come here, what's happened?"
"At some time in the night, M'sieu, I think it must have
been between two and three, the warning bell, which is
always attached to my bed, began to ring. I knew exactly
what to do. It was part of Mr. Morse's precautions, in
which he had drilled us. When that bell rang, at whatever
time of day or night, I was to wake M'selle instantly, dress
her without a second's delay, and bring her out of the Pal-
ace by a secret way.
"I did so, and arrived in this room, where M'selle fainted.
The door was locked from the outside, and as I have strict
orders never to exceed my instructions by a hair's breadth,
I have been waiting.
"Not very long ago M'sieu here" — ^she pointed to Rol-
ston — "hearing some noise, unlocked the door and came in.
To him I told what had happened."
"Thank God," I said aloud, "that she's safe," and in my
heart I paid a tribute to the minutely detailed genius of
Gideon Morse, who had at least foiled the panthers on his
track in one, and the greatest particular.
"Very well then. Now we must leave you here while
we hurry to the Palace to try and learn what has hap-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 229
pened, and do what we can. You will not be afraid?"
"No, M'sieu," she replied simply. "There's an angel
with us," and she crossed herself devoutly. "And, more-
over," from somewhere about her waist she withdrew a
long, keen knife, "I know what to do with this, M'sieu, in
the last resort."
I went to the bed, I looked down at Juanita and kissed
her gently on the forehead.
"Now then. Bill, come along," I said.
"By the private way," he said, pointing to the French
woman, who was removing a heavy Turkish rug which lay
in front of the fireplace. There was a click, and a portion
of the floor fell down, disclosing some steps, padded with
"This way, M'sieu," she whispered, "the passage is lit,
but here's a torch if you should need it, and here is the
She handed me a little leather-bound book about the size
of a railway ticket.
"Instructions in English and Chinese in regard to the
secret room at the other end. They are few and simple,
but Mr. Morse had them printed so that there could be
no mistake if ever it became necessary to use the place and
"He thinks of everything," said Bill, as we crept down
into a fairly wide passage, and the trap-door above rose
once more into its place.
230 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
The passage was fully a hundred and thirty or forty
yards long and straight as an arrow. As we approached
the end, which I saw to be hidden by a heavy curtain, I
thought of the little leather covered book. Motioning Rol-
ston to stop I opened it and read the English portion.
There were about five or six pages, with one or two simple
diagrams, and I blessed the journalistic training that enabled
me to see the purport of the whole thing in a minute, though
I gasped once more at the fertile ingenuity of Gideon Morse.
Gently putting aside the heavy curtain, we entered a room
of some size. The floor was heavily carpeted. Around two
of the walls were couches piled with blankets. Upon
shelves above were piles of stores — I saw boxes of biscuits,
tins of condensed milk and many bottles of wine. The
place was quite fourteen feet high and at one end four
posts came down from the ceiling to the floor. They were
grooved and the grooves were lined with steel which was
cogged to receive a toothed wheel. Between the four posts,
dropping some two feet from the ceiling, was what looked
like the lower part of a large cistern or tank. This appa-
ratus extended along the whole far end of the room, which
was not square but square-oblong in shape. Immediately
opposite to where we entered was an arrangement of levers,
like the levers in a railway signal-box, though smaller ; above
these, sprouting out of the wall, were half a dozen vulcanite
mouthpieces like black trumpets. Above each one was a
little ivory label.
"What does it all mean?" Bill whispered.
I held up my hand for silence, looking round the place,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 231
referring once or twice to the little book, and making abso-
lutely sure. As I was doing so there was a sudden "pop,"
followed by the unmistakable gurgle of champagne into a
It was the most uncanny thing I have ever heard, for
it might have happened at my elbow. Had it not been
that a tiny electric signal-bulb no bigger than a sixpence
glowed out over one of the mouthpieces, I should have been
utterly unnerved. This mouthpiece was labeled "Mr. Morse's
"The dictograph," I whispered to Rolston, and he pressed
my arm to show he understood.
I think I would have given a thousand pounds myself
for some champagne just then. We stood holding each
other, frozen into an ecstasy of listening. I almost thought
that one of Bill's remarkable ears was elongating itself until it
coiled sinuously towards the wall, but this, no doubt, was
There came a voice, an urbane, and cultured voice, well
modulated and serene.
It v/as all that, but as I heard it my blood seemed to
turn to red currant jelly and to circulate no more in my
veins. If there was ever a voice which was informed by
some unnamable quality which came straight from the red
pit of hell, we heard that voice then. Hearing it, I knew
for the first time the meaning of those words: The worm
that dies not and the fire that is not quenched.
"Whoever thought, Gideon Morse, that I should be break-
fasting with you to-day! To tell the truth I didn't myself.
232 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
But as you know, I have always been a great gambler and
now, at the end of all the games of chance that we have
played together, I have turned up the final ace."
Another voice — Heaven! it was Morse himself who an-
swered. His voice seemed almost amused. It was like com-
ing out of a pitch dark room into summer sunlight to hear
it after that other.
"Mark Antony Midwinter, you speak of triumph, but
you were never nearer your ultimate end than you are at
this moment" — I could have sworn I heard his dry chuckle
and I moved nearer to the wall.
"This cold pheasant is quite excellent. What is the use
of trying to bluff me? Your end has come and you know
it. It isn't going to be a pleasant end, I expect you guess
that. We have tossed the dice for many years, you and I.
You've won over and over again. I had become an outcast
on the face of the earth, until Fate made me the agent of
a great vengeance."
This time Morse laughed outright.
"You offal-eating jackal!" he said. "Finish your stolen
meal and get to work. You, the agent of a great venge-
ance! when not long ago you slunk into my London hotel
and offered to sell your employers. I understand," he went
on in a curiously impersonal voice, "that you really are sup-
posed to be descended from a high English family. Even
when I had you tarred and feathered — do you remember
that, Antony? — many years ago, I still believed in your
descent, though I own I didn't give it much of a thought.
Tell me, where exactly did the kitchen-maid come in?"
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 233
Following upon Morse's words we heard the sound of
footsteps and the scraping of a chair.
A new person had come into the room and Midwinter had
risen to meet him.
The reply came in a deep bass voice.
"Nothing is changed. There was one Chinaman, it
must have been the librarian of whom that guy we put
through it, spoke — he came sliding along and tried to get
down by the cat's cradle outside the tower, I was leaning
out of that balcony window above, commanding every ap-
proach, and I got him with my second shot."
"Did he fall all the way down? That might startle them
"No. He just crumpled up on the stairs, and after
looking round, I've come back here. There's a little wind
beginning to get up and I shouldn't wonder if in an hour
or so this mist-blanket is all blown away."
"Half an hour is enough for what we have to do, Zorilla.
Just go over to Mr. Morse there and see if his lashings are
secure — and then we must think about getting off our-
It was as though Bill and I could see exactly what was
happening in the library — the heavy tread, an affirmative
grunt, and then the smooth hellish voice resuming:
"You know you've got to die, Morse, and die painfully.
Nothing can alter that, but I'll let you off part of your
agonies if you tell me at once where your daughter is. It
234 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
will only precipitate matters. We can easily find her as you
"I don't like talking with you at all. You are both
of you doomed beyond power of redemption. You have
overcome some of my precautions, by what means I can-
not tell. You've captured my person. You are about to
wreak your disgusting vengeance on it. For Heaven's sake
do so. You know nothing of this place you are in, or very
little. Fools!" The voice rang out like a trumpet.
There was a murmured conference, the words of which we
could not catch, then Midwinter said:
"We'll put you to the test a little, before Zorilla really
begins — operating. Adjoining this apartment I see there is
your most luxurious bathroom — the walls of onyx, the bath
of solid silver. Well, we'll take you and put you in that
bath and turn on the water. I'll stand over you, and with
my hands on your shoulders, I'll plunge you an inch or two
beneath the surface, till you are so nearly drowned that
you taste all the bitterness of death. Then we'll have you
up again and ask you a few questions. Perhaps you may
have to go back into the bath a second time before Zorilla
gets to the real work."
No words of mine can describe the malignancy of that
voice, no words of mine can describe the shout of resolute,
sardonic laughter which answered it.
Bill wanted to shout in answer, but I clapped my hand
over his mouth just in time, and I could almost see the
frowning faces of the two fiends as they advanced upon the
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 235
. . . Steps overhead; the little bulb over the mouthpiece
labeled "Mr. Morse's study" goes out, and another lights up
over the mouthpiece labeled "Bathroom." There is a jar-
ring as a tap is turned on and a rush of water.
"That'll do, Zorilla. Two feet is quite enough for our
purpose" — the voices are actually in the room now, much
louder and clearer than before.
"You take the heels — steady, heavo!" and then a splash
and a thud. We heard some one vaulting lightly into the
"Now, Morse, I hold you up for a minute. I shall press
you down under the water until you are as near dead as
a man can be. Have you anything to say?"
"Yes. Give me one moment."
"Ten if you like."
Then there came in a calm, penetrating voice, "Are you
I reached upward and smote with my clenched fist upon
the outside of the bath. I heard a muttered exclamation,
a slight splash, and then Bill Rolston pulled over a lever,
and half the ceiling of our room sank towards us with a
noise like the winding-up of a clock.
Midwinter was standing in one end of the bath, which
hid him almost up to his waist. His jaw dropped like the
jaw of a dead man. Such baffled hate and infinite malevo-
lence stared out of his eyes that I gave a shout of relief
as Rolston lifted his arm and fired.
He must have missed the fiend's head by a hair's breadth,
no more. Quick as lightning he fired again, but he was too
236 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
late. Midwinter bounded out of the bath like a tennis ball,
felled Rolston with a back-arm blow as he leapt, and fled
down the passage.
The loud thunder of the explosions in that underground
place had not died away before I had lifted Morse from
under the water and dragged him over the side of the
His face was very pale, but his eyes were open and he
Truly the man was marvelous.
"The other," he whispered, "the brute Zorilla! Juan-
I understood one of the devils, desperate now, was still
at large, and even as I realized it, I saw a ghastly sight.
There was a noise above. I bent my head backward
and looked up through the aperture in the ceiling.
A man was crouching over it and I saw his face and neck
— a big, black-bearded face, with eyes like blazing coals,
but reversed. His eyes were where his mouth should have
been, his nostrils were like two pits, and for a forehead
there was a grinning mouth full of gleaming teeth. Any
one who, when ill, has seen their nurse or attendant bend-
ing over them from the back of the bed, will realize what
I mean, though they can never xmderstand the horror of
that demoniac and inverted mask.
I was pretty quick on the target, but not quick enough.
The thing whipped away even as I fired, and there was a
thunder of feet running.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 237
I think a sort of madness seized me, at any rate I was
never in a moment's doubt as to what to do. I shoved my
pistol in my pocket, leapt upon the edge of the bath, sprang
upwards and caught the floor of the room above with my
The rest was easy for any athlete in training. I pulled
myself up, lay panting for a second and then stood upon
the tiled floor of the bathroom.
The door leading into the library was open. I dashed
through to find the place empty, rushed through the hall
and out upon the steps of the main entrance. And then,
joy! A morning wind had begun and instead of a white,
impenetrable wall, a phantom army was retreating and, as
if pursuing those ghost-like sentinels, w^as the black, rurming
figure of Zorilla.
I had a clear glimpse of him as he plunged into the
tunnel leading to Grand Square, and I was after him like
a slipped greyhound.
In Grand Square it was clearing up with a vengeance.
There were gleams of sunlight here and there and the mist
had lifted for about twelve feet above my head.
I saw him bolt round the central fountain, hidden by an
immense bronze dragon for a moment, and then legging
it for all he was worth towards the way that led to the
lifts for the second stage.
The wood floor had dried with the lifting of the mist
and I was doing seven-foot strides. I was seeing red.
There was a terrible cold fury at the bottom of my heart.
238 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
but in my mind there was a furious joy. With every stride
I gained on him — this powerful, thick-set, baboon-like man
from the forests of the Amazon.
I gave a loud, exulting "View-halloo," and the black head
turned for an instant — he lost ten good yards by that. I
whooped again. I meant to kill, to rend him in pieces.
And for the first time in my life I realized the joy of
primeval man: the lust of the hunt, red fang, red claw, to
tear, dominate and destroy.
Oh, it was fine hunting!
Damn him! He snapped himself into one of the little
lifts when I was within six yards of him. I saw his ugly
face sink out of sight behind the glass panels. I remem-
bered that these small hydraulic lifts worked, though the
big ones below didn't. But I remembered something else
. . . there was a stairway.
I found it by instinct, a great broad stair with tiled walls
like the subway of some railway terminus.
I didn't bother about the stairs. I leapt down — pre-
serving my balance by a miracle — six or seven at a time.
Pounding out into the great empty City at the foot, I
swirled round and was just in time to see my gentleman
bolt out of his lift like a rabbit from its hole and run to
where I knew was the outside stairway which fell, in its
corkscrew path, barred by many gates, right down to safety
and the normal world.
It was the way by which dear old Pu-Yi had hoped to
descend and raise the alarm. It was the perilous eyrie
upon which this same bull-like assassin had picked him off
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 239
like a sitting pigeon and boasted of it not half an hour
As he dodged and ran I fired at him, but never a bullet
touched the brute and I flung the Colt away with an oath.
"Much better kill him with my own hands," I said in
my mind, "much better tear his head off, break him up — "
I tell you this as it happened. For the moment I was
a wild beast, in pursuit of another, but still, I think, a super-
Well, never mind that. I saw him fumbling at a sort of
fence, clearly outlined against an immense space of morn-
ing sky, and thundered after him — thundered, I say, because
I was now running along an open steel grating, which
seemed to sway . . .
Then I vaulted over where Zorilla had vaulted, and my
heart leapt into my mouth as I fell — fell some eight feet
on to a tiny platform, protected from space by a rail not
more than three feet high.
I reeled, and caught hold of a stanchion and saved myself.
Far, far below, London — London in color was unrolling
itself like a map — and immediately below my feet, already
a considerable distance down, was the slithering black spider
that I had sworn to kill.
I could see him through the grid, and then I flimg myself
upon the corkscrew ladder, grasping the rails with my hands
until the skin was burnt from them, disdaining the steps
and spinning round and ever downwards like a great top.
As I went my head projected at right angles to my body.
As I buzzed down that sickening height I saw that Zorilla
240 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
had stopped. I knew that he had come to one of the steel
gates, at which he was fumbling uselessly.
Then, as I came to the last step before the little gate plat-
form I saw also, under the curve of the stair, a huddled
figure, and I knew who that was, who that had been . . .
I threw myself at Zorilla with my knee in the small of
his back. Instantly I caught him round the throat with
my fingers just on the big veins behind the ear which sup-
ply the brain with blood, and my fingers crushed the trachea
until the whole supple throat seemed breaking under the
molding of my grip.
I felt that I had got him. That if I could hold out
for a minute he would be dead, but I hadn't reckoned with
the immense muscular force of the body.
I clung like the leopard on the buffalo, but he began
to sway this way and that. In front of us was the steel
gate and the motionless figure of Pu-Yi. We were strug-
gling upon the steel grid, not much larger than a tea table.
A slight rail only three feet high defended us from the void
— a little thigh-high rail between us and a drop of near
two thousand feet.
He lurched to the left, and I swung out into immensity,
carried on his back. I was sure it was the end, that I
should be flung off into space, when with one arm he gripped
the gate, braced all his great strength and slowly dragged
us back into equilibrium. It seemed that the whole tower
trembled, vibrated in a horrible, metallic music.
I pressed down my thumbs, I strained every sinew of my
wrist and arm in the strangle hold, and I felt the life puis-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 241
ing out of him in steady throbs. There was nothing else
in the world now but myself and him and I ground my
teeth and clutched harder.
In his death agony he lurched to the other side of our
tiny foothold space. This was where the circular stair-
way ended. He caught his foot, so I was told afterwards,
in the last stanchion of the stair, fell over the rail with a
low, sobbing groan, and then, weighted by me upon his
shoulders, began to slip, slip, slip, downwards.
And I with him.
I had conquered. I don't think that in that moment I
had any feeling but one of wild, fierce joy. He was going,
I was going with him, but I never thought of that, until my
right ankle was clutched in a vice-like grip. I felt the
warm, heaving body below me rush away, tearing my grip
from its throat by its own dreadful impetus, and then, as
I was snatched back with a jar of every bone in my body,
there was a shrill whistling of air for a second as Zorilla
went headlong to his doom, and I knew nothing else.
Falling! Falling through deep waters, with a horrible
sickening sense of utter helplessness and desolation ; nerves,
heart, mind — ^very being itself — awaited the crash of ex-
tinction. A slight jolt, a roaring of great waters in the
air, and a voice, dim, thin and far away!
... In some mysterious way, the sense of sight was
joined to that of sound and hearing. I was surrounded by
blackness shot with gleams of baleful fire, shifting and
changing until the black grew gray in furious eddies, the
gray changed into the light of day, and a far-off voice
became loud and insistent.
It was thus that I came to myself after the horror on
the edge of the dizzy void.
The first thing I saw was the face of Juanita. There
were tears in her eyes and her cheeks were brilliant. Then
I heard, and even then with a start, a voice that I had
never thought to hear again — the gentle, tripping accents
''He will do now, Seiiorita. The doctor said that he
would awake from his sleep with very little the matter ex-
cept the shock — " *'
"Juanita!" I cried, and her cool hand came down upon
"You are not to excite yourself, dearest," she said.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 243
For a moment or two I lay there in a waking swoon
of puzzled but entire bliss. Then I tried to move my posi-
tion slightly upon the bed, for I was lying upon a bed in
a large and airy room, and groaned aloud. Every muscle
in my body seemed stretched as if upon the rack, and there
was a pain like a red-hot iron in one ankle.
''It will hurt for a few hours," said Pu-Yi, "but you will
shortly be massaged, Sir Thomas, and then — "
"You!" I cried, "but you are dead! Zorilla got you on
the tower before — before — "
My mind leapt up into full activity. I was once more
swaying upon the edge of infinity with my fingers locked
in the bull neck of the assassin, and my voice died away
into a whisper of horror.
"He stunned me, that was all. Sir Thomas. His bullet
glanced away from my head. I came to myself just in
time to see you struggling with him and gripped you just
as you were falling off into space. The spirits of my
ancestors were with me."
"And he— Zorilla?"
"Will never trouble us more. But you are not well
enough yet to talk. You are in my hands for the present."
"Do exactly as Pu-Yi says, dear, and remember that
all is well."
"Your father?" I gasped — why hadn't I thought of Morse
"All is well," she repeated in her low, musical voice, and
as I lay back, trembling once more upon the edge of uncon-
sciousness, her face left the circle of my vision.
244 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Two deft Chinese masseurs came. I was placed in a hot
bath impregnated with some strong salts. I was kneaded
and pummeled until I could hardly repress cries of pain.
I drank a cup of hot soup in which there must have been
some soporific, and sank into a deep, refreshing sleep.
It had been late afternoon when I first came to myself.
When I woke for the second time, it was night. The room
was brilliantly lit. Pu-Yi was sitting by my bedside, quietly
smoking a long, Chinese pipe, and, for my part, though I
was very stiff, I was in full possession of all my faculties
and knew that I had suffered no harm.
I sat up in bed and held out my hand to the Chinaman.
"Pu-Yi, I'm all right now. I owe my life to you!" And
as I realized my extraordinary deliverance in the very article
of death, a sob burst from me and I am not ashamed to say
that my eyes filled with tears. IMy hand is as strong as
most men's, but I almost winced at the grip of those fragile-
looking, artistic fingers.
"You did the same for me, my honorable friend," he
said quietly, "and now — "
Before I knew what he would be at, he was feeling my
pulse and listening to my heart with his ear against my
At length he gave a sigh of relief. "We had a doctor
to you," he said, "and he told us that, in his opinion, youi
would be little the worse. I am rejoiced that his opinion]
"Oh, I am all right now, and ready for anything."
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 245
''You are sure, Sir Thomas? What you have been
through may have given you a shock which — "
For answer, I held out my hand. It was as firm as a rock
and did not tremble. I heaved myself off the bed, took
a cigarette from a box upon a table, and began to smoke.
''Now then, Pu-Yi, I am just as I was before. First of
all, where am I?"
"You are in the Palacete," he replied. "You were brought
here at once."
Then I knew that I was in Morse's dwelling house, copied
exactly, as I have said before, from the Palacete Mendoza
"Now tell me exactly what has happened, in as few words
"I am only too anxious to do so. Sir Thomas. You were
brought back here. Immediately after, Rolston descended
by means of the outside stair and summoned the staff. They
are all here now. The electric cables have been repaired.
Lifts, telephones, electric light, and all the other machinery
is in working order. The body of Zorilla has been brought
up to the City and placed with that of Mulligan and my
own servant. This house is strongly guarded by armed
men, and the whole City is patrolled."
"No one else was hurt?"
"No one else at all. Sir Thomas."
His face changed as he said this, and he looked me full
in the eyes.
Then, with a start, I understood. Every detail of the
246 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
past came back in a vivid, instantaneous picture. Again
I saw the silver bath descending from the ceiling and heard
the loud explosion of Rolston's pistol. And as that furious
noise resounded in my mental ear, once more the grinning,
corpse-pale face of Mark Antony Midwinter passed close
to mine and I felt the very wind of his passage as he rushed
by and disappeared down the long underground corridor
leading to the safety-room.
"Midwinter!" I almost shouted. The face of the China-
man had gone a dusky gray — he told me afterwards that
mine was white as linen.
"Vanished," he said — "disappeared utterly. And he is
the master-mind! While Mark Antony Midwinter is alive,
Mr. Morse, none of us, will know a moment of safety or of
I could not quarrel with that. Zorilla was dead — a
great gain — but no one who had been through what I
had and who knew the whole situation as I knew it, could
fail to appreciate the terrible seriousness of this news. To
you who read this record in peace and safety, this may
seem a wild or exaggerated statement, a product of over-
strained nerves. But, believe me, it was not so. I knew
too much! The securest fortress in the whole world had
been already stormed. All the precautions that enormous
wealth and some of the subtlest brains alive could take had
already proved useless against the superhuman cunning,
energy and ferocity of this being who seemed, indeed, lit-
erally, more fiend than man. No! we were no cowards.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 247
most of us, up there in the City of the Clouds, but we might
well quail still, to know that this fury was unchained. I
know that I sat down suddenly upon the bed with a groan
■'Gone! Vanished! Surely he must be either in the
City or has escaped! If he is in the City, I admit the
danger is imminent. He must be utterly desperate, and
will stick at nothing. If he has managed to get down to
the earth, he is dangerous still, but we have a breathing
space. Which is it?"
"We do not know. Sir Thomas. There is no trace of him
anywhere, so far. But, as I have said, we have more than
a hundred men, armed and patrolling the City. This house,
at any rate, is secure for the moment. A great search is
being organized. The whole area is being mapped out and
it will be searched with such thoroughness before to-
morrow's dawn that a rat could not escape. My own theory
is, and Mr. Morse agrees with me, that Midwinter is still
in the City. The most scrupulous inquiries below seem to
prove that he never descended from the tower, and you
know how minute and careful our organization is. And now
that you are yourself again, it is Mr. Morse's wish that we
hold a conference and settle exactly what is to be done.
Do you think you are equal to it?"
"Perfectly," I replied, and without another word Pu-Yi
led the way out of the room.
I found Mr. Morse sitting in his library. He was pale,
and seemed much shaken. There were red rims round the
248 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
keen, masterful eyes, but his voice was strong and resolute,
and I could see that, whatever his opinion of his chances,
he would fight till the end.
I need not go into details of the private conversation we
had for a minute or two. His gratitude was pathetic, and
I felt more drawn to him than ever before. When at length
Juanita, followed by little Rolston, entered the room, all
trace of his emotion had gone and we settled down round
the table as calm and businesslike as a board of directors
in a bank. And yet, you know, no group of people in
Europe stood in such peril as we did then. Behind the
long, silken curtains, the shutters were of bullet-proof steel.
The corridor outside, the gardens of the house, swarmed
with men armed to the teeth. It was dark in the sky,
but the City in the Clouds blazed ever5rwhere with an arti-
ficial sunlight from the great electric lamps.
Two thousand feet up in the air we sat and spoke in
quiet voices of the horror that was past and the horror that
threatened us. Far down below, London was waking up to
a night of pleasure. People were dressing for dinners and
the theater, thousands upon thousands of toilers had left
their work and were about to enjoy the hours of rest and
recreation. And not a soul, probably, among all those mil-
lions that crawled like ants at our feet had the least suspi-
cion of what was going on in our high place. They were
accustomed to the great towers now. The sensation of their
building was over and done, there were no more thrills. If
they had only known!
I was not aware if strata of clouds hid us from the
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 249
world below, as so often happened; but if the night were
clear I do remember thinking that any one who cast their
eyes up into the sky might well notice an unusual bril-
liancy in the pleasure city of the millionaire, that mysterious
theater of the unknown, which dominated the greatest city
in the world.
. . . 'Well, Tom," said Mr. Morse, 'Tu-Yi tells me that
you are now acquainted with all the facts. The question
we have to decide is, what are we to do?"
He turned to Juanita, and nodded. She left the room.
'The situation, as I understand it," I replied, "is that
Midwinter" — I had a curious reluctance in pronouncing
the name aloud — "is either concealed here in the City or
has made his escape. If he is here, we shall know before
to-morrow morning, shall we not?"
"Precisely. I have spent the last hour in going over
the plans of the City with the chiefs of the staff. We have
divided up the two stages into small sections, and even
while I am talking to you the search has begun. The orders
are to shoot at sight, to kill that man with less compunction
than one would kill a mad dog. If he is really here, he can-
not possibly escape."
"Very well, then," I said, "let us turn our attention to
the other possibility. Assuming that he has got away, I
think we may safely say that the danger is very much
"While we remain here in the City — ^yes," Morse agreed.
"And you are determined to do that?"
He took the cigar he had been smoking from. his lips,
250 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
and his hand shook a little. "Think what you like of me,"
he said, "but remember that there is Juanita. I say to you,
Kirby, that if I never descend to the world again alive, I
must stay here until Mark Antony Midwinter is dead."
Well, I had already made up my mind on this point.
"I think you are quite right," I told him. "Still, he will
not make a second appearance in the City. You can treble
your precautions. He must be attacked down in the
Then a thought struck me for the first time. "But how,"
I said, "did he and Zorilla ever come here in the first in-
stance? Treachery among the staff? It is the only expla-
Pu-Yi shook his head. "You may put that out of your
mind. Sir Thomas," he said. "That is my department. I
know what you cannot know about my chosen compatriots."
"But the man isn't a specter! He's a devil incarnate, but
there's nothing supernatural about him."
Then little Rolston spoke. "I've been down below all
day," he said, "and though I haven't discovered anything
of Midwinter, I am certain of how he and Zorilla got here."
We all turned to him with startled faces.
"Do you remember, Sir Thomas," he said, "that, shortly
after your arrival, when you were looking down upon Lon-
don from one of the galleries, there was a big fair in Rich-
I remembered, and said so.
"Among the other attractions, there was a captive bal-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 251
Morse brought his hand heavily down upon the table with
a loud exclamation in Spanish.
"Yes, there was, but — but it was quite half a mile away
and never came up anything like our height here."
"No," the boy answered, "not at that time. But do you
remember how during the fog last night I told you I had
seen something, or thought I had seen something, like a
group of statuary falling before my bedroom window?"
Something seemed to snap in my mind. "Good heavens!
And I thought it was merely a trick of the mist! Nothing
"No, but in view of what happened afterwards, I formed
a theory. I put it to the test this morning. I made a few
inquiries as to the proprietors of the captive balloon and
the engine which wound it up and down by means of a
steel cable on a drum. I need not go into details at the
moment,- but the whole apparatus did not leave Richmond
Park when it was supposed to do so. The wind was drifting
in the right direction, the balloon could be more or less
controlled — certainly as to height. I have learned that
there was a telephone from the car down to the ground.
Desperate men, resolved to stick at nothing, might well have
arranged for the balloon to rise above the City — the cable
was quite long enough for that — and descend upon part
of it by means of a parachute, or, if not that, a hanging
rope. More dangerous feats than that have been done in
the air and are upon record. It seems to me there is no
doubt whatever that this is the way the two men broke
through all our precautions."
252 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
There was a long silence when he had spoken. Mendoza
Morse leant back in his chair with the perspiration glit-
tering in little beads upon his face, but he wore an aspect
"You've sure got it, my friend," he said at length, "that
was how the trick was done! It was the one possibility
which had never occurred to me, and hence we were unpro-
vided. Well, that relieves my mind to a certain extent. We
can take it that we are safe in the City, if Midwinter has
escaped. How are we to make an end of him?"
"The difficulty is," I said, "that we are, so to speak,
both literally and actually above, or outside, the Law. If
that were not so, if ordinary methods could deal with this
man, or could have dealt with the Hermandad in the past,
Mr. Morse would never have planned and built the eighth
wonder of the world. No word of what has happened in
the last day or two must get down to the public — isn't that
Morse nodded. "It goes without sajang," he said. "We
have our own law in the City in the Clouds. At the present
moment, there are three bodies awaiting final disposal —
and there won't be any inquest on them."
"That," Rolston broke in, "was something I was waiting
to hear. It's important."
He stopped, and looked at me with his usual modesty,
as if waiting permission to speak. I smiled at him, and he
"It is an absolute necessity," he said, "to enter into
the psychology of Midwinter. We may be sure that his
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 253
purpose is as strong as ever. The death of Zorilla, and his
present failure, will not deter him in the least, knowing
what we know of him?"
He looked inquiringly at Morse.
"It won't turn him a hair's breadth," said the millionaire.
"If he was mad with blood-lust and hatred before, he must
be ten times worse now."
"So I thought, sir. He has lost his companion, as des-
perate and as cunning as himself, but we can be quite cer-
tain that he is not without resources. I think it safe to
assume that he has practically an unlimited supply of money.
He must have other confederates, though whether they are
in his full confidence or not is a debatable question. That,
however, at the moment, is not of great importance. We
have him in London, let us suppose, for it is the safest place
in the world for a man to hide — in London, determined, and
hungering for revenge. We have no idea what his next
scheme will be, and in all human probability he hasn't
planned either. He must be considerably shaken. He will
know, now, how tremendously strong our defenses are, and
it will not escape a man of his intelligence that they will
now be greatly strengthened. It will take him some time
to gather his wits together and work out another scheme.
The only thing to do, it seems to me, is to force his hand."
"And ho^/?" Morse and I said, simultaneously.
"We must trap him — not here at all, but down there, in
London" — ^he made a little gesture towards the floor with
his hand, and as he did so, once more the strange and
eerie remembrance of where we were came over me, lost
254 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
for a time in the comfortable seclusion of a room that might
have been in Berkeley Square.
"Here we, that is the Press, come in," said Rolston, smil-
ing proudly at me.
I smiled inwardly at the grandiloquence of the tone, and
yet, how true it was! — this lad who, so short a time ago
had got to see me by a trick, was certainly the most bril-
liant modern journalist I had ever met. I made him a
little bow, and, delighted beyond measure, he continued.
"Let it be put about," he said, "with plenty of detail,
rumor, contradiction of the rumor and so on — in fact we will
get up a little stunt about it — that Mr. Mendoza Morse has
tired of his whim. For a time, at any rate, he is going to
make his reappearance in the world. If necessary, announce
Miss Juanita's engagement to Sir Thomas. Get all London
interested and excited again."
Morse nodded, his face wrinkled with thought. "I think
I see," he said, "but go on."
"When this is done, let us put ourselves in Midwinter's
place. I believe that he will have no suspicion of a trap.
He will argue it in this way. We are too much afraid of
him to attack ourselves. Hitherto, all our measures have
been measures of defense and escape. It will hardly occur
to him that we have changed all our tactics. He will think
that, with the failure of his attempt, the bad failure, and
the death of Zorilla — which I have no doubt he will have
discovered by now — we imagine he will abandon all his
attempts. He will say to himself that we now believe our-
selves safe and that his power is over, his initiative broken,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 255
that he will never dare to go on with his campaign. Every-
thing seems in favor of it. I should say that it is a hundred
to one that his line of thought will be precisely as I have
"By Jove, and I think so, too! Good for you, Rolston!"
I shouted, seeing where he was going.
His boyish face was wreathed in smiles. "Thank you,"
he said. "Well, we are to lay a trap, and it is on the de-
tails of that trap that everything depends. I see, by to-
day's Times, that Birmingham House in Berkeley Square,
is to let. The Duke is ordered a long cruise in the Pacific.
Let Mr. Morse immmediately take the house and issue invi-
tations for a great ball to celebrate Miss Juanita's engage-
ment. If that house and that ball are not to Midwinter as
a candle is to a moth, then my theory is useless! Somehow
or other he will be there, either before or actually on the
occasion. By some means or other he will get into the
He stopped, and with a little apologetic look took out his
cigarette case and began to smoke. He really was wonder-
ful. This was the lad, airily ordering one of the richest men
in the world to take the Duke of Birmingham's great man-
sion, whose capital but a few short weeks ago was one penny,
bronze. I remember how he was forced to confess it to me,
even as I congratulated him.
We talked on for another half-hour, or rather little Bill
Rolston talked, the rest of us only putting in a word now
and then. He seemed to have mapped out every detail of
the new campaign, and we were content to listen and admire.
256 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Of course I am not a person without original ideas, or
unaccustomed to organization — my career, such as it is, has
proved that. But on that night, at least, I could initiate
nothing, and I was even glad when the conference came
to an end. Morse was much the same — ^he confessed it
to me as we left the room — and the truth is that we were
both feeling the results of the terrible shocks we had under-
gone. Rolston was younger and fresher, and besides his
peril had not been as great as mine or the millionaire's.
Pu-Yi vanished in his mysterious fashion, and Morse,
Rolston and I went to dirmer. There was no question of
dressing on such a night as this, but, if you believe me,
the meal was a merry one!
It was Juanita's whim to have dinner served in a won-
derful conservatory built out on that side of the Palacete
which looked upon the gardens separating it from the eastern
villa where Rolston and I were housed. The place was yet
another of the fantastic marvels conjured up by Morse and
his millions. It was an exact reproduction of a similar
conservatory at my host's house in Rio de Janeiro, and had
been carried out at a frightful cost by the greatest land-
scape gardener and the most celebrated scenic artist in
We sat at a little table, surrounded by tall palm trees
rising from thick, tropical undergrowth, a gay striped awn-
ing was over our heads, protecting us from what seemed
brilliant sunshine. On every side was the golden rain of
mimosa, masses of deep crimson blossoms, and wax-like mag-
nolia flowers. From a marble pool of clear water sprang
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 257
a little fountain — a laughing rod of diamonds. In the dis-
tance, seen over a marble balustrade, was the deep blue of
the tropic sea dominated by the great sugar-loaf mountain,
the Pao de Azucar.
It was an illusion, of course, but it was perfect. That
sea, and the gleaming mountain, which, from where we sat,
seemed so real, was but a cleverly painted cloth. The warm
and scented air came to us through concealed pipes, and
down in the lower portion of the City, patient, moon-faced
Chinamen were at work to produce it. The sunlight, actu-
ally as brilliant as real sunlight, was the result of a costly
installation of those marvelous and newly invented lamps
which are used in the great cinema studios. Only the trees
and the flowers were real.
Outside, it was a keen, cold night. We were perched
on the top of gaunt, steel towers, more than two thousand
feet in the air, and yet, I swear to you, all thought of our
surroundings, and even of our peril, was banished for a brief
and laughing hour. Like the tired traveler in some clearing
of those lovely South American forests from which the wealth
of Morse had sprung, we had forgotten the patient jaguar
that follows in the tree-tops for a week of days to strike
I dwell upon this scene because it was another of those
little interludes, during my life in the City of the Clouds,
which stand out in such brilliant relief from the encircling
Juanita was in the highest spirits. I had never seen her
more lovely or more animated. Morse himself, always a
258 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
trifle grim, unbent to a sardonic humor. He told us story
after story of his early life, with shrewd flashes of wit and
wisdom, revealing the keen and mordaunt intellect which
had made him what he was. A wonderful pink champagne
from Austria, looted from the Imperial cellars during the
war, and priceless even then, poured new life into our veins
— it was impossible to believe in the tragedy of the last few
hours, in the shadow of any tragedy to come.
We adjourned to the music-room after dinner, an apart-
ment paneled in cedar-wood and with a wagon roof, and
Juanita played and sang to us for a time. It was just ten
o'clock when Rolston looked at his watch and gave me a
significant glance. I rose and said good-night, both Morse
and Juanita announcing their intention of going to bed.
As we came to the outside door, Bill turned to me.
"Hadn't you better go back to our house, Sir Thomas,
and sleep? Remember what you have been through."
"Sleep? I couldn't sleep if I tried! I feel as fit and
well as ever I did — why?"
"I've promised to meet Mr. Pu-Yi in the office of the chief
of the staff. Reports will be coming in of the search which
has been going on all the evening. I am anxious to see how
far it has got, though of course if Midwinter had been
found, or any trace of him, we should have been informed
at once. And there is something else, also — "
He stopped, and I made no inquiries. "Well, I'm with
you," I said; for I felt ready for anything that might come,
in a state of absolute, pleasant acquiescence in the present
and the future. I hadn't a tremor of fear or anxiety.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 259
One of those noiseless, toy, electric automobiles which I
had already seen when Juanita first showed me the City, was
waiting. We got in, and buzzed through the gardens, and
down the tunnel which led to Grand Square. As we went,
I saw shadowy figures patrolling ever5rwhere. The whole
place was alive with guards — my girl could sleep well this
As we came out of the tunnel I motioned to Bill to go
slowly, and he pulled the lever, or whatever it was, that
controlled the speed. In almost complete silence we began
to circle the huge inclosure, the tires making no noise what-
ever upon the floor of wood blocks.
The air was keen, cold, and wonderfully pure. There
was not a cloud in the heavens, and one looked up at a
far-flung vault of black velvet spangled with gold. Never
had I seen the stars so clear and brilliant in England, for
the haze of smoke and the miasma of overbreathed air which
is the natural atmosphere of London lay two thousand feet
below. The Grand Square blazed with light. The build-
ings, with their spires, domes and cupolas, stood out with
extraordinary clearness against the circimiambient black of
space. No outline was soft or blurred, everything was viv-
idly, fantastically real. A veritable scene from the old
Arabian Nights indeed ! And something of the same thought
must have come to my companion, for he looked up and
said: "I once saw an extraordinary illustration by Willy
Pogany of one of De Quincey's opium dreams — ^here it is,
only a thousand times more marvelous!"
The fountain in the middle of the Square — a long dis-
26o THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
tance away it seemed as we slowly skirted the buildings —
made a ghostly laughter as it sprang from its dragon-
supported basin of bronze. The gilded cupola of the ob-
servatory shone with a wan radiance, higher than all else,
and a black triangle in the gold told me that the patient old
Chinese astronomer surveyed the heavens, lost in a waking
dream of the Infinite, probably loftily unconscious of all
that had been going on in the magic city at his feet. I
envied that serene, Oriental philosopher, Juanita's special
friend and pet, who lived up there in his observatory, and,
so I was told, hardly ever descended for any purpose at all.
He was as inviolate a hermit as Saint Anthony. It was espe-
cially curious that I should have cast my glance heaven-
wards and have thought of that ancient sage at this mo-
ment. You will learn why afterwards.
We stopped at one of the white kiosks, from the interior
of which the hydraulic lifts went down to the lower part
of the City. It was in an upper story of that that the chief
of the staff had his office, and, mounting a flight of steps,
we entered, to find Pu-Yi sitting at a roll-top desk, scrutiniz-
ing a handful of paper reports.
"It is nearly over. Sir Thomas," he said, rising and plac-
ing chairs for us. "Almost every inch of the City has been
searched, and but little remains to be done. There is not
a single trace of the man, Midwinter."
I own that to hear this was a great relief. We were
all of us fired with Rolston's plan of a trap down below
in London. His theory seemed to be correct. Midwinter
had somehow escaped, and we should meet him in due
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 261
time — for I had never a doubt of that. Meanwhile, Juan-
ita and her father were safe.
"It is only what I expected, though how on earth he man-
aged to get away remains to be seen!"
"It will come to light in due course," Pu-Yi replied.
"And now, Sir Thomas, are you prepared to accompany me
and Mr. Rolston? There are certain things to be done, and
I shall be glad to have you as a witness."
"Anything you like — but what is it?"
"You must remember that the bodies of three dead men
await disposal," he replied. "What remains of Zorilla —
he fell into the lake on the first stage, though of course he
was dead, strangled in mid-air, long before the impact.
Then there is Mulligan, who died in defense of the City;
finally Sen, the boy from my own province in China, of
whose terrible end you are aware."
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"We must keep to our policy of secrecy and noninter-
ference by the outside world. The bodies must be de-
stroyed, and by fire."
I gave a little inward shudder, but I don't think he no-
ticed it, and in a minute more we were dropping to the
lower City in a rapid lift.
It was in a furnace-room that provided some of the hot
air for the conservatories on the stage above that I witnessed
the ghastly and unceremonious finish of the mortal parts of
the Spaniard and the Irishman, and it was cruel and sordid
to a degree — or so it seemed to me. The long bundle of
sacking which contained that which had housed the evil
262 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
soul of Senor Don Zorilla y Toro — I resisted a bland invi-
tation on the part of a stoker in a blue jumper and a pleased
smile to examine the stiff horror — was slung through an
iron door into a white and glowing core of flame. There
was a clang as the long, steel rods of the firemen pushed
it to, and I cannot say that I felt much regret, only a
sort of shuddering sickness and relief that the door was
closed so swiftly.
But it was different in the case of Mulligan. I blamed
Morse in my heart. The man had been strangled when
saying his prayers. He was of the millionaire's own reli-
gion, and there should have been a priest to assist at these
fiery obsequies of a faithful servant. I learned afterwards,
I am glad to say, that Morse had not been consulted, and
knew nothing about the actual disposal of the bodies until
afterwards. You see the shock came — Rolston felt it too —
from the fact that these bland and silent Asiatics were
utterly without any emotion as they performed their task.
They were heathens, worshiping Heaven knows what in
their tortuous and secret souls. As poor Mulligan — they
had put the body in a coffin and it took eight struggling,
sweating Orientals to hoist and slide it into the furnace —
vanished from my eyes, I put my hands before my face and
said such portions of the Protestant burial service as I
remembered, and they were very few.
"They're nasty beasts, aren't they. Sir Thomas?" Rolston
whispered, as we fled the furnace room. "Soulless, just like
We waited for Pu-Yi for a minute or two.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 263
"I thank you, Sir Thomas, and Mr. Rolston," he said in
his calm, silky voice, "It was as well that you saw the dis-
posal of the dead, though it is only a remote contingency
that there will ever be inquiry. And now, if you wish, I
will send you up again. I, myself, must attend to the
obsequies of my compatriot."
"Oh," I remarked, and I fear my tone was far from
pleasant, "you propose to be rather more ceremonious in
the case of the lad, Sen?"
For a single moment I saw that calm and gentle face
disturbed. Something looked out of it that was not good
to see, but it was gone in a flash. This was the first and
last time that I had a shadow of disagreement with the
man whose life I had saved and who saved mine in re-
turn. It was natural, I think — neither of us was to blame.
"East is East and West is West," and there are some points
at least at which they can never meet. Poor Pu-Yi! He
had as fine an intellect as any man I ever met, and was a
great gentleman. I wish I could look upon him once more
as I write this, but, though I didn't know it, the sand in
the glass was nearly out and our hours together dwindling
We followed him through various twists and turns of
the under City, among the huts and storehouses, thronged
with silent people — it was like moving in the interior of
a hive of bees — until, by means of an archway and a closed
door, we emerged in a sort of courtyard surrounded on three
sides by buildings. On the fourth was a rail, breast-high,
and above and around was open night.
264 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
"We can't take his body to China," said oxir guide. ''We
must burn it here, and only the ashes will rest in the
village of his ancestors. But it is well. Such cases are pro-
vided for in my religion,"
We then saw that in the center of the yard there was
a low funeral pile, apparently of wood. Two men in long,
yellow gowns were pouring some liquid over it.
"If you will do me the honor to come this way," said
Pu-Yi, and we entered a long, bare room. In the center
of this place there was a large square box of painted wood,
the lid of which was not yet in place. The body of the
dead man was sitting in the box, the hands clasped round
the knees. The nose, ears and mouth were filled with ver-
milion, which, to our Western eyes, gave a horrible, gro-
tesque appearance to the brown, wrinkled mask of the face.
Poor Sen's countenance was placid enough, but it was not
like that of even a dead man, a fantastic image, rather.
A gong beat with a sudden hollow reverberation, and
from another door a file of mourners entered.
At the far end of the room was a table upon which
was a painted tablet. "It bears," whispered Pu-Yi, "the
name under which Sen enters salvation."
Two men swinging censers stood by the table, and two
others, a little nearer the corpse, held bronze bowls of
water. First Pu-Yi, and then the other mourners, dipped
their hands in the water to purify them, and then, pro-
ducing paper packets of incense from their bosoms, they
threw a pinch into the censers with the right hand and
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 265
bowed low to the table, retiring backwards. It was all done
with the precision of a drill and in absolute silence, and
for my part I found it no less ghastly and unreal than the
brutal scene in the furnace-room below.
''Come out," I whispered to Rolston, and we reentered
the pure air, walking to the rail at one side of the square.
We leant over. Far, far below, so far that it was sensa-
tion rather than vision, was a faint, full glow, the night
lights of London, but of the city itself nothing could be
seen whatever. Even the burnished ribbon of the Thames
had disappeared, and no sound rose from the capital of
the world. There was a thin whispering round us as the
night breezes blew through steel stay and cantilever, a faint
humming noise like that of some gigantic iEolian harp.
And once, as we bathed ourselves in the cool, the immensity
and the dark, there was a rush of whirring wings, and the
''honk-konk" of the wild duck from the great lake fifteen
hundred feet below, as they passed in wedge-shaped flight
on some mysterious night errand. We leant and gazed,
filled with awe and solemnity, until a low, wailing chant and
the thin, piercing notes of single-wire-strung violins made
us turn to see the square box hoisted on the bier, a torch
applied, and a roaring spitting column of yellow flame
towering up above the buildings and throwing a ghastly
light on a hundred round, mask-like faces, indistinguishable
one from the other by European eyes.
As I read now, ten years afterwards, that scene among
so many others comes back to me with extraordinary vivid-
266 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
ness. And it seems to me as I live my English life in honor,
tranquillity, and happiness, that it was all a monstrous
Surely — yes, I think I am safe in saying this — there will
never again be such a place of horror and fantasy as the
City in the Clouds.
I SLEPT that night like a log, untroubled by dreams, and
woke late the next morning. It was then that, as the say-
ing is, I got it in the neck. "Wow!" I half-shouted, half-
groaned, as I turned to meet the Chinese valet with the
morning cup of tea. My whole body seemed one bruise,
my joints turned to pith, and, what was worse than all, my
brain — a pretty active organ, take it all in all — seemed
stuffed with wool.
It was the reaction, only to be expected, as the Richmond
doctor said to me some three hours later. For the next two
or three days I was to do nothing at all, after my "bad fall,"
which was the way my state had been explained to him.
Whether he believed it or not, I cannot tell. It was cer-
tainly odd that Mr. Mendoza Morse, whom he also at-
tended, should be in very much the same state of shock and
semi-collapse. But he was a discreet, clean-shaven gentle-
man, with a comfortable manner, and in the seventh heaven
at being admitted to the mysterious City in the Clouds,
his eyes everywhere as he was being conducted through its
wonders to our bedsides — so Rolston told me afterwards.
At any rate, he was right. It was certainly necessary to
go slow for a few days, and fortunately, now that the search
was over and no trace of Midwinter discovered, we felt
we could do this.
268 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
The preliminary arrangements for our final effort were
left in Rolston's hands, who descended with the doctor, and
I did not rise till mid-day.
I met Morse at lunch — piano, and distinctly under the
weather from a physical point of view. We neither of us
talked of important matters, but enjoyed a stroll round
the City during a bright afternoon. At tea-time we met
Juanita, and I had a long and happy talk with her. She
knew, of course, that the search had proved satisfactory,
and — as we had all agreed together — I led her to think that
all danger was now practically over. Indeed, as far as
Morse and she were concerned, I believed it myself. I knew
that there was yet a grim tussle ahead for the rest of us,
but that was all. I did not see her at dinner, but took
the meal alone in my own house. Rolston was still absent,
and as I did not want to talk to any one, failing Juanita,
I was quite happy by myself.
About nine o'clock I was rung up on the telephone.
Morse spoke. He said he was now thoroughly rested, and
was ready for a chat. If I hadn't seen the treasures of
the library yet, he and Pu-Yi would be pleased to show
them to me. And so, slipping on a coat over my evening
clothes, and taking a light cane in my hand, I started out
for Grand Square. It was again, I may mention here, a
fine and calm night.
My host and the Chinaman were waiting for me in the
great, Gothic room, and we inspected the treasures in some
of the glass-fronted shelves. I was surprised and delighted
to find that my future father-in-law had a real love for, and
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 269
a considerable knowledge of, books. It was a side of him
I had not seen before. I had not connected him with the
arts in any way, which, when you come to think of it, was
rather foolish. Certainly he had the finest expert advice
and help to be foimd in the whole world in the building
of the City in the Clouds. But I should have remembered
that the initial conception was his own and that many
of the details also came entirely from his brain. Certainly,
in his way, Mendoza Morse was a creative artist.
My own collection of books at Stax, my place in Hert-
fordshire, is, of course, well known, and always mentioned
when English libraries are under discussion. But Morse
could boast treasures far beyond me. During the last year
or two I had been so busy in working up the Evening Spe-
cial that I had quite neglected to follow the book sales, but
I learned now that some of the rarest treasures obtainable
had been quietly bought up on Morse's behalf. He had
all the folios, and most of the quartos, of Shakespeare, a
fine edition of Spenser's "Faerie Queene" with an inscrip-
tion to Florio, the great Elizabethan scholar; there was
Boswell's own copy of Johnson's "Lives of the Poets,"
with a ponderous Latin inscription in the sturdy old doc-
tor's own hand, and many other treasures as rare, though
not perhaps of such popular and general interest.
Pu-Yi made us some marvelous tea in the Chinese fashion,
with a sort of ritual which was impressive as he moved about
the table and waved his long pale hands. It was of a
faint, straw color, with neither sugar, milk, or lemon, and
he assured me that it came from the stores of the Forbidden
270 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
City in Pekin. Certainly, it was nasty enough for anything,
and I praised it as I had praised Morse's rose-colored cham-
pagne the night before — but with less sincerity.
I don't know if my friend had a touch of homesickness
or not, but he began to tell us of his home by the waters of
the Yang-Tse-Kiang. His precise and literary English rose
and fell in that great room with a singular charm, and
though I don't think Morse listened much, he smoked a
cigar with great good-humor while Pu-Yi expounded his
quaint. Eastern philosophy. We did not refer to the grim
scenes of the night before, but something I said turned
the conversation to the funeral customs of China.
"Indeed, Sir Thomas," said Pu-Yi, "the death of a man
of my nation may be said to be the most important act of
his whole life. For then only can his personal existence
be properly considered to begin."
This seemed a somewhat startling proposition, and I said
so, but he proceeded to explain. I shall not easily forget
his little monologue, every word of which I remember for
a very sad and poignant reason. Well, he knows all about
it now, and I hope he is happy.
"It is in this way," he said. "By death a man joins the
great company of ancestors who are, to us, people of almost
more consequence than living folk, and of much more in-
dividual distinction. It is then at last," he continued, deli-
cately sipping his tea, "that the individual receives that
recognition which was denied him in the flesh. Our ancestors
are given a dwelling of their own and devotedly reverenced.
This, I know, will seem strange to Western ears, but be-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 271
lieve me, honorable sir, the cult is anything but funereal.
For the ancestral tombs are temples and pleasure pavilions
at the same time, consecrated not simply to rites and cere-
monies, but to family gatherings and general jollification."
This was quite a new view to me, and certainly interest-
ing. I said so, and Pu-Yi smiled and bowed.
"And the fortunate defunct," he went on, "if he is still
half as sentient as his dutiful descendants suppose, must
feel that his earthly life, like other approved comedies, has
His voice was sad, but there was a faint, malicious mock-
ery in it also, and as I looked at him with an answering
smile to his own, I wondered whether that keen and subtle
brain really believed in the customs of his land. That he
would be studious and rigid in their outward observance, I
I never met, as I have said before, a more courteous gen-
tleman than Pu-Yi.
"Ever been in South Germany?" said Morse suddenly
— ^he had evidently been pursuing a train of his own thought
while the Chinaman held forth.
"Yes, Mr. Morse, why?"
"Then in some of those quaint, old-fashioned towns you
have seen the storks nesting on the roofs of the houses?"
I remembered that I had.
"Well, I've got a pair of storks — they arrived this morn-
ing from Germany — duck and drake, or should you say
cock and hen? — at any rate, I've a sort of idea of trying
to domesticate them, and to that end have had a nest con-
272 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
structed on the roof of this building, where they will be
sheltered by the parapet and be high up above the roof
of the City. What do you say to going to have a look at
them and see if they're all right?"
Extraordinary man! He had always some odd or curi-
ous idea in his mind to improve his artificial fairyland.
Nothing loth, we left Pu-Yi and ascended a winding stair-
case to the roof of the great building. Save for the lantern
in the center, it was fiat and made a not unpleasant prome-
nade. The storks were at present in a cage, and could only
be distinguished as bundles of dirty feathers in a miscel-
laneous litter. I thought my friend's chance of domesti-
cating them was very small, but he seemed to be immensely
interested in the problem.
When we had talked it over, he gave me a cigar and we
began to promenade the whole length of the roof. As I
have said, the night was clear and calm. Again the great
stars globed themselves in heaven with an incomparable
glory unknown and unsuspected by those down below. The
silence was profound, the air like iced wine.
From where we were, we had a bird's-eye view of the
whole City. Grand Square lay immediately at our feet,
brilliantly illuminated as usual. Not a living soul was to
be seen; only the dragon- fountain glittered with mysterious
life. To the right, beyond the encircling buildings of the
Square, stood the Palacete Mendoza surrounded by its gar-
dens, a square, white, sleeping pile. I sent a mental greeting
to Juanita. So high was the roof on which we stood that
only one of the towers or cupolas rose much above m. It
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 273
was the dome of the observatory, exactly opposite on the
other side of Grand Square.
"There is some one who isn't much troubled bj' sub-lunary
affairs," I said, pointing over the machicolade.
Morse nodded, and expelled a blue cloud of smoke. "I
guess old Chang is the most contented fellow on earth,"
he said. "He is Professor, you know. Professor Chang, and
an honorary M.A. of Oxford University. I had him from
the Imperial Chinese Observatory at Pekin, and I am told
he is on the track of a new comet, or something, which is
to be called after me when he has discovered it — thus con-
ferring immortality upon yours truly!
"It is an odd temper of mind," he went on more seri-
ously, "that can spend a whole life in patient seclusion,
peering into the unknown, and what, after all, is the un-
knowable. Still, he is happy, and that is the end of human
He sighed, and with renewed interest I stared out at the
round dome. The slit over the telescope was open, which
showed that the astronomer was at work. In the gilded half-
circle of the cupola, it was exactly like a cut in an orange.
I was about to make a remark, when an extraordinary
Without any hint or warning, there was a loud, roaring
sound, like that of some engine blowing off steam. With
a "whoosh," a great column of fire, like golden rain, rose
up out of the dark aperture in the dome, towering hun-
dreds of feet in the sky, like the veritable comet for which
old Chang was searching, and burst high in the emp3^rean
274 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
with a dull explosion, followed by a swarm of brilliant,
Some one inside the observatory had fired a gigantic
Morse gave a shout of surprise. He had a fresh cigar
in his hand, and, unknowingly, he dropped it and mechani-
cally bit the end of his thumb instead.
"What was that?" I cried, echoing his shout.
He didn't answer, but grew very white as he stepped up
to the parapet, placed his hand upon the stone, and leant
I did the same, and for nearly a minute we stared at the
white, circular tower in silence.
Nothing happened. There was the black slit in the
gold, enigmatic and undisturbed.
"Some experiment," I stammered at length. "Professor
Chang is at work upon some problem."
Morse shook his head. "Not he! I'll swear that old
Chang would never be letting off fireworks without con-
sulting or warning Pu-Yi. Kirby, there is some black busi-
ness stirring! We must look into this. I don't like it at
He suddenly stopped speaking, and put his hand to his
ear. His whole face was strained in an ecstasy of listen-
ing, which cut deep gashes into that stern, gnarled old
I listened also, and with dread in my heart. Instinctively
and without any process of reasoning, I knew that in some
way or other the horror was upon us again. My lips went
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 275
dry and I moistened them with the tip of my tongue; and,
without conscious thought, my hand stole round to my
pistol pocket and touched the cold and roughened stock
of an automatic Webley.
Then I heard what Morse must have heard at first.
The air all around us was vibrating, and swiftly the
vibration became a throb, a rhythmic beat, and then a low,
menacing roar which grew louder and louder every second.
We had turned to each other, understanding at last, and
the same word was upon our lips when the thing came —
it happened as rapidly as that.
Skimming over the top of the distant Palacete like some
huge night-hawk, and with a noise like a machine gun,
came a venomous-looking, fast-fl3dng monoplane. It swept
down into Grand Square like a living thing, just as the
noise ceased suddenly and echoed into silence. It alighted
at one end and on the side of the fountain nearest the
observatory, ran over the smooth wood-blocks for a few
yards, and stopped. It was as though the hawk had pounced
down upon its prey, and every detail was distinct and
clear in the brilliant light of the lamps in the Square below.
Both of us seemed frozen where we stood. I know, for
my part, all power of motion left me. A choking noise
came from Morse's throat, and then we heard a cry and
from immediately below us came the figure of Pu-Yi, hurry-
ing down the library steps and running towards the aero-
plane, which was still a considerable distance from him.
The next thing happened very quickly. A door at the
foot of the observatory tower opened, and out came what
276 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
we both thought was the figure of the astronomer. He was
a tall, bent, old man, habitually clothed in a padded, saffron-
colored robe with a hood, something like that of a monk.
"Chang!" I said in a hoarse whisper, when Pu-Yi stopped
short in his tracks, lifted his arm, and there was the crack
of a pistol.
The figure beyond, which was hurrying towards the mono-
plane, swerved aside. The robe of padded silk fell from
it and disclosed a tall man in dark, European clothes. He
dodged and writhed like an eel as Pu-Yi emptied his auto-
matic at him, apparently without the least result. Then I
saw that he was at the side of the aeroplane, scrambling up
into the fuselage assisted by the pilot in leather hood and
He was up the side of the boat-like structure in a second,
and then, with one leg thrown over the car he turned
and took deliberate aim at Pu-Yi. There was one crack,
he waited for an instant to be sure, and saw that it was
enough. Then there was a chunk of machinery, two or
three loud explosions, a roar, and the wings of the venomous
night-hawk moved rapidly over the parquet, chased by a
black shadow. It gathered speed, lifted, tilted upwards, and,
clearing the buildings at the far end of the Square, hummed
away into the night.
It was thus that Mark Antony Midwinter escaped from
the City in the Clouds. He had been there all the time.
He had murdered poor old Chang many hours before, and
impersonated him with complete success. The food of the
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 277
recluse was brought to him by servants and placed in an
outer room so that he should never be disturbed during
his calculations. He had received it with his usual mut-
tered acknowledgments through a little guichet in the
wooden partition which separated the anteroom from the
telescope chamber itself. No one had ever thought of
doubting that the astronomer himself was there as usual.
The whole thing was most carefully planned beforehand
with diabolic ingenuity and resource.
It was just three weeks after the murder of Pu-Yi, and
once more I sat in my chambers in Piccadilly. The day had
been cloudy, and now, late in the afternoon, a heavy fog
had descended upon the town through which fell a cold
and intermittent rain.
Up there, in the City in the Clouds, perhaps the sun
was pouring down upon its spires and cupolas, but Lon-
don, Piccadilly, was lowering and sad.
Lord Arthur Winstanley and Captain Pat Moore had
just left me, both of them glum and silent. It went to my
heart not to take them into my full confidence, but to do
so was impossible. I had told them much of the recent
events in the City — I could not tell them everything, for
they would not have understood. Certainly I could have
relied upon their absolute discretion, but, in view of what
was going to happen that very night, I was compelled to
keep my own counsel. They had not lived through what
I had recently. Their minds were not tuned, as mine
was, to the sublime disregard and aloofness from English
law which obtained in Morse's gigantic refuge. Certainly
neither of them would have agreed to what I proposed to
do that night.
Preston came quietly into the library. He pulled the
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 279
curtains and made up the fire. The face of Preston was
grim and disapproving. He looked much as he looked when
— what ages ago it seemed! — I departed his comfortable care
to become the landlord of the "Golden Swan."
"I'm not at home to any one, Preston," I said, "except
to Mr. Sliddim, who ought to be here in a few minutes. Of
course, that doesn't apply to Mr. Rolston."
"Very good. Sir Thomas, thank you, Sir Thomas," said
Preston, scowling at the mention of the name. Poor fellow,
he didn't in the least understand why I should be receiv-
ing the furtive and melancholy Sliddim so often, and should
sit with him in conference for long hours! Afterwards,
when it was all over, I interrogated my faithful servant, and
the state of his mind during that period proved to have been
This seems the place in which to explain exactly what
had happened up to date.
When Midwinter had escaped, we found the corpse of
poor old Professor Chang, and the whole plan was revealed
to us. Pu-Yi had been shot through the heart. His death
must have been instantaneous. For several days Morse was
in a terrible state of depression and remorse. He said
that there was a curse upon him, and it was with the great-
est difficulty that Rolston and I could bring him into a
more reasonable frame of mind. The long strain had worn
down even that iron resolution, but, for Juanita's sake, I
knew that I must stand by him to the end.
Accordingly, there was nothing else for it, Rolston and
I took entire charge of everything. I had never felt in-
28o THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
dined to go back from the very beginning. Now my reso-
lution was firm to see it through to the end.
Rolston pursued his own plans, and London very shortly
knew that Gideon Mendoza Morse and his lovely daughter
were about to reappear in the world. It gave my little, red-
haired friend intense pleasure to organize this mild press
campaign from the office of the Evening Special. I placed
him in complete control, to the intense joy of Miss Dews-
bury and the disgust of the older members of the staff. Be
that as it may, the thing was done, and every one knew
that Birmingham House had been taken by the millionaire.
It was then, having organized things as perfectly as I
could at the City, placing Kwang-Su, the gigantic gate-
keeper of the ground inclosure, in charge of the staff, that
I myself descended into the world as unobtrusively as pos-
sible. For a day or two I remained in seclusion at the
"Golden Swan," and during those two days saw no one but
the Honest Fool, Mrs. Abbs, my housekeeper, and — Slid-
dim, the private inquiry agent.
Personally, while I quite appreciated the fellow's skill in
his own dirty work, and while indeed I owed him a con-
siderable debt in the matter of Bill Rolston's first disappear-
ance, I disliked him too much ever to have thought of him
as a help in the very serious affair on which I was engaged.
It was Rolston, as usual, who changed my mind. He saw
farther than I did. He realized the essential secrecy and
fidelity of the odd creature whom chance had unearthed
from among the creeping things of London, and in the end
he became an integral part of the plot.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 281
He was told, of course, no more than was necessary. He
was not by any means in our full confidence. But he was
given a part to play, and promised a reward, if he played
it well, that would make him independent for life. Let me
say at once that he fulfilled his duty with admirable skill,
and, when he received his check from Mr. Morse, vanished
forever from our ken. I have no doubt that he is spying
somewhere or other on the globe at this moment, but I have
no ambition to meet him again.
Mr. Sliddim, considerably furbished up in personal ap-
pearance, was made caretaker at Birmingham House in
Berkeley Square. He had not been in that responsible posi-
tion for more than ten days when our fish began to nibble
at the bait.
In a certain little public house by some mews at the
back of Berkeley Square, a little public house which Mr.
Sliddim was instructed — and needed no encouragement — to
frequent, he was one day accosted by a tall, middle-aged
man with a full, handsome face and a head of curling,
gray hair. This man was dressed in a seedy, shabby-
genteel style, and soon became intimate with our lure.
Certainly, to give him his due, Sliddim must have been
a supreme actor in his way. He did the honest, but intensely
stupid caretaker to the life. Mark Antony Midwinter was
completely taken in and pumped our human conduit for all
he was worth, until he was put in possession of an entirely
fictitious set of circumstances, arranged with the greatest
care to suit my plans.
I shall not easily forget the evening when Sliddim slunk
282 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
into my dining-room and described the scene which told us
we had made absolutely no mistake and that our fish was
definitely hooked. It seems that the good Sliddim had grad-
ually succumbed to the repeated proffer of strong waters
on the part of "Mr. Smith," his new friend. He had
bragged of his position, only lamenting that some days
hence it was to come to an end, when, in the evening, Mr.
Mendoza Morse, his daughter, and a staff of servants were
to enter the house simultaneously. Sliddim, the most con-
sistent whisky-nipper I have ever seen — and I had some
curious side-lights on that question when I was landlord of
the "Golden Swan" — ^was physically almost incapable of
drunkenness, but he simulated it so well in the little pub
at the back of the Square that Mark Antony Midwinter
made no ado about taking the latchkey of Birmingham
House area door from his pocket and making a waxen
impression of it.
Rolston and I knew that we were "getting very hot," as
the children say when they are playing Hunt-the-Slipper,
and another visit from Sliddim confirmed it. The plan
of our enemy was perfectly clear to our minds. He would
enter the house by means of the key an hour or two before
Morse and the servants were due, conceal himself within
it, and do what he had to do in the silent hours of the
It was quite certain that he believed Morse now felt him-
self secure, and no doubt Midwinter had arranged a plan
for his escape from Berkeley Square, when his vengeance
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 283
was complete, as ingenious and thoroughgoing as that pre-
pared for his literal flight from the City in the Clouds.
And now, on this very evening, I was to throw the dice
in a desperate game with this human tiger.
"It is for to-night certain, sir," said Sliddim when he
arrived. "I've let him know that I am leaving the house
for a couple of hours this evening, between eight and ten,
to see my old mother in Camden Town. At eleven he sup-
poses that the servants are arriving, and at midnight Mr.
and Miss Morse. A professional friend of mine is watching
our gent very carefully. He is at present staying at a
small private hotel in Soho, and I should think you had
better come to the house about seven, on foot, and directly
you ring I'll let you in. I've promised to meet our friend
at the little public house in the mews at eight, for just one
drink — ^he wants to be certain that I am really out of the
way — and I should say that he would be inside Birming-
ham House within a quarter of an hour afterwards."
Rolston came in before the fellow went, and a few more
details were discussed, which brought the time up to about
And then I had a most unpleasant and difficult few
minutes. My faithful little lieutenant defied me for the
first time since I had known him.
"I can't tell what time I shall be back," I said, "but I
shall want you to be at the end of the telephone wire —
there are plenty of telephones in Birmingham House."
"But I am going too. Sir Thomas," he said quickly.
284 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I shook my head, "No," I said, "I must go through
"But it's impossible! You must have some one to help
you, Sir Thomas! It is madness to meet that devil alone
in an empty house. It's absolutely unnecessary, too. I
must go with you. I owe him one for the blow he gave me
when he escaped from the Safety-room at the City, and,
besides — "
"Bill Rolston," I said, "the essence of fidelity is to obey
orders. I owe more to you than I can possibly say! With-
out you, I dread to think what might have happened to
Miss Morse and her father. But on this occasion I am
adamant. You will be far more use to me waiting here,
ready to carry out any instructions that may come over
"Please, Sir Thomas, if I ever have done anything, as
you say, let me come with you to-night."
His voice broke in a sob of entreaty, but I steeled myself
and refused him.
I must say he took it very well when he saw that there
was no further chance of moving me.
"Very well then, Sir Thomas," he said, "if it must be so,
it must be. I will be back here at seven, and wait all night
With that, his face clouded with gloom, he went away and
I was left alone.
Doubtless you will have gathered my motive? It would
have been criminal to let Rolston, or any one else, have
a share in this last adventure. To put it in plain English,
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 285
I determined, at whatever risk to myself, to kill Mark
There was nothing else for it. The law could not be
invoked. While he lived, my girl's life would be in terri-
ble danger. The man had to be destroyed, as one would
destroy a mad dog, and it was my duty, and mine alone,
to destroy him. If I came off worst in the encounter, well,
Morse still had skilled defenders. The risk, I knew, was
considerable, but it seemed that I held the winning cards,
for within two hours Midwinter would step into a trap.
When I had killed him I had my own plans as to the
disposal of the body. It was arranged that a considerable
number of Chinese servants from the City should arrive at
eleven. If I knew those bland, yellow ruffians, it would
not be a difficult thing to dispose of Midwinter's remains,
either on the spot or by conveyal to Richmond. Another
alternative was that I should shoot him in self-defense,
as an ordinary burglar. Certainly the law would come in
here, but it would be justifiable homicide and be merely a
three days' sensation. I had to catch my hare first — the
method of cooking it could be left till afterwards.
In a drawer in my \vriting-table were letters to various
people, including my solicitor and my two friends, Pat
Moore and Arthur Winstanley. There was a long one, also,
to Juanita. Everything was arranged and in order. I am
not aware that I felt any fear or any particular emotion,
save one of deep, abiding purpose. Nothing would now
have turned me from what I proposed to do. I had spent
long thought over it and I was perfectly convinced that it
286 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
was an act of justice, irregular, dangerous to myself, but
morally defendable by every canon of equity and right. The
man was a murderer over and over again. To-night he
would receive the honor of a private execution. That
When I left my chambers, with an automatic pistol, a
case of sandwiches, and a flask of whisky-and-water, the
rain was descending in a torrent. The street was empty
and dismal, and Berkeley Square itself a desert. I don't
think I saw a single person, except one police-constable
in oilskins sheltering under an archway, till I arrived at
Birmingham House. The well-known fagade of the man-
sion was blank and cheerless. All the blinds were down;
there was not a sign of occupation. I rang, the door opened
immediately, and I slipped in.
"I must be off. Sir Thomas," said Sliddim. "If you go
through the door on the far side of the inner hall beyond
the grand staircase, you will find yourself in a short pas-
sage with a baize door at the farther end. Push this open,
and you will be in a small lobby. The door immediately
to your left is that of the butler's pantry. It commands the
service stairs and lift to the kitchen and servants' rooms.
Standing in the doorway you will see the head of any one
coming up the stairs, and — " he gave a sickly grin and
something approaching a reptilian wink. Sliddim was an
unpleasant person, and I never liked him less than at that
With another whisper he opened the door a few inches
and writhed out.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 287
I was left alone in Birmingham House.
It was the queerest possible sensation, and as I crossed
the great inner hall, with its tapestries and gleaming statu-
ary, lit now by two single electric bulbs, I don't deny that
my heart was beating a good deal faster than was pleasant.
There is always something ghostly about an empty house,
more especially when it is fully furnished and ready for
occupation. The absence of all life is uncanny, and one
seems to feel that it is hidden, not absent, and that at
any moment a door may open and some enigmatic stranger
be standing there with an unpleasant welcome in his eyes.
Well, I slunk through all the glories of the grand hall,
passed down the passage, and came out into the servants'
quarters. The little lobby, the floor of which was covered
with cork matting, was well lit, and so were the stairs. I
peered over the rail, but could not see to the bottom; but,
standing in the door of the room called the butler's pantry,
I saw that I could put a bullet through the head of any one
appearing, before he could have the slightest inkling of my
presence, before he could slew round, even, to face me.
The butler's pantry itself was a fair-sized, comfortable
room, with a carpet on the floor and a couple of worn,
padded armchairs by the fireplace. The walls were hung
with photographs; on one side was a business-like roll-top
desk, and in a corner a large safe which obviously con-
tained the plate in daily use in the great household. I knew
that the bulk of the valuables were stored in a strong room
in Chancery Lane.
Upon the table Mr. Sliddim had thoughtfully placed a
288 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
heavy cut-glass decanter half full of whisky, a siphon, and
— glasses! The whisky was all right, but did he expect me
to hobnob with Antony Midwinter, to speed the parting
guest, as it were, with a stirrup-cup? It was difficult to
suspect him of such grim humor.
I looked at my watch. There was still a good half-hour
before Midwinter and Sliddim were due to meet in the
little public house behind the Square. I saw that my pistol
was handy, and sat down in one of the armchairs by the
fireside. A pipe of the incomparable "John Cotton" would
not be amiss, I thought, wondering if I should ever taste
its fragrance again, and for some minutes I sat and smoked,
placidly enough. Then, I suppose a quarter of an hour
or so must have elapsed, I began to fidget in my chair.
The house was so terribly still! Still, but not quite silent!
Time, that was ticking away so rapidly, had a score of
small voices. There was the faint noise of taxicabs out
in the Square, the drip of the rain, an occasional stealthy
creak from the furniture, the scurry of a mouse in the
wainscot; the more remote chambers of my brain began
to fill with riot, and once my nerves jerked like a hooked
And even now I do not think it was fear. Terror, per-
haps — there is a subtle distinction — but not craven fear. I
think, perhaps, it was more the sense of something coldly
evil that might even now be approaching through the fog
and rain, a lost soul inspired with cunning, hatred, and
ferocity, whom I must meet in deadly contact within a short,
but unknown, space of time. . . .
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 289
"This won't do at alll" I thought, and then my eye fell
on Mr. Sliddim's hospitable preparations. I got up, went
round to the other side of the table, put my pistol down
upon it, and mixed a stiff peg.
My back was now to the open door, and I was just lift-
ing the glass to my lips, eagerly enough, I am afraid, when,
very softly, something descended upon each of my shoul-
I had not heard a sound of any sort, save the gurgle of
the aerated water in the glass, but now a shriek like that of
a frightened woman rang out into the room, and it came
I was gripped horribly by the back of the throat, whirled
round with incredible speed and force, and flung heavily
against the opposite wall, falling sideways into an armchair,
gasping for breath and my eyes staring out of my head.
Then I saw him. Mark Antony Midwinter was standing
on the other side of the table, smiling at me. He wore
a fashionable morning coat and a silk hat. Under his left
arm was a gold-headed walking-cane, and he carried his
gloves in his left hand. In the right was the gleaming blue-
black of an automatic pistol, pointed at my heart.
At tJiat, I pulled myself together. In an instant I knew
that I had failed. The brute must already have been in
the house when Sliddim admitted me — ^he had outwitted
all of us!
"Ah!" he said, "Sir Thomas Kirby! You have crossed
my path very many times of late. Sir Thomas, and I have
long wished to make your acquaintance."
290 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
His voice was suave and cultured. The rather full, clean-
shaved face had elements of fineness — many women would
have called him a handsome man. But in his dull and
opaque eyes there was such a glare of cold malignity, such
unutterable cruelty and hate, that the whole room grew
like an ice-house in a moment; for it is not often that
any man sees a veritable fiend of hell looking out of the
eyes of another.
"You have come a little earlier than I expected," I man-
aged to say, but my voice rang cracked and thin.
"It is a precaution that I frequently take. Sir Thomas,
and one very much justified in the present instance. To tell
the truth, I had little or no suspicion that I was walking
into a trap — that much to you! But a life of shocks" —
here he laughed pleasantly, but the little steel disk pointed
at my heart never wavered a hair's breadth — "has taught
me always to have something in reserve. I see that I shall
not have the pleasure of settling accounts with Mr. Gideon
Morse and his daughter to-night. Well, that can wait.
Meanwhile, I propose within a few seconds to remove an-
other obstacle from my path — do you think the mandarin,
Pu-Yi, will be waiting for you at the golden gates, Sir
So this was the end! I braced myself to meet it.
"How long?" I said.
"I will count a hundred slowly," he answered.
He began, and I stared dimibly at the pistol. I could not
think — I could not commend my soul to my Maker even.
The function of thought was entirely arrested.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 291
"Thirty . . . thirty-one . . . thirty-two!"
And then I suddenly burst out laughing.
My laughter, I know, was perfectly natural, full of genuine
merriment. Something had happened which seemed to me
irresistibly comic. He stopped and stared at me, his face
changing ever so little.
"May I ask," he said, "what tickled your sense of
What had tickled my sense of humor was this. Stealing
round from behind him, right under his very nose, so to
speak, but quite unseen, was an arm which with infinite
care and slowness was removing the heavy cut-glass decanter
from the table. It vanished. It reappeared in the air
behind him in a flashing diamond and amber circle.
"Have some whisky, Mr. Midwinter," I said, as it de-
scended with a crash upon the side of his head.
Without a sound he sank into a huddled heap out of
my sight, hidden by the table.
"You little devil!" I said, staggering to my feet, for Bill
Rolston stood there, white-faced and grinning. "I had
to come. Sir Thomas," he said, "it wasn't any use."
"Have you killed him. Bill?"
We bent down and made an examination. Midwinter's
face was dark and suffused with blood, but his pulses were
"What a pity!" said Rolston. "Help me to get him on
to that chair, Sir Thomas, and we'll tie him up. If I had
killed him, it would have been so much simpler!"
We dragged the unconscious man to the very armchair
292 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
where I had sat under the menace of his pistol, and, tear-
ing the tablecloth into strips, tied him securely.
"Fortunately," said Bill, "I didn't break the decanter.
The stopper didn't even come out! You look pretty sick,
Sir Thomas" — and indeed a horrible feeling of nausea had
come over me, and my hands were shaking — "let's each have
a drink and then I'll tell you what I think."
We sat down on each side of the table, and I listened
to him as if the whole thing were some curious dream.
For the second time I had been snatched from the very
brink of death, and though I suppose I ought to have
been getting used to it my only sensation was one of limp-
ness and collapse.
"Can you do it?" my little friend said, pointing to the
pistol between us.
I took it up, weighed it in my hand, half-pointed it at
the stiff, red-faced figure in the chair, and laid it down
"No, I'm damned if I can!" I answered. And then —
I must have been more than half-dazed — I actually said:
"You have a go, Bill."
He looked at me in horror.
"Murder him in cold blood! I should never know a mo-
ment's peace, Sir Thomas!"
"Well, you nearly did it in hot, and you've just been
tempting me — "
"Let us bring him to, if we can," he said, tactfully chang-
ing the conversation and advancing upon our friend with
the siphon of soda-water.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 293
There was a grotesque horror about the whole of our
adventure that night. I laughed weakly as the soda hissed
and the stream of aerated water splashed over Midwinter's
Before the final gurgle he awoke. His eyes opened with-
out speculation. Then his jaw dropped. For a moment
his face was as vacant as a doll's, and then it flared up
into a snarl of realization and hatred, only, in another
instant, to settle down into a dead calm.
"My tiu-n now," I said.
He knew the game was up. I will do him the justice
to say he did not flinch. »
"Very well, count a hundred," was his answer, and his
eye fell to the two pistols on the table — his own and mine.
I shook my head. "I can't do it — I wish I could 1"
"You'll find it quite easy — I speak from experience," he
replied, with a desperate, evil grin.
"No, I have talked the situation over with my friend.
You are going to die, that is very certain, but not by my
hand now, and not, Mr. Midwinter, by the hand of the
He was very quick. Even then he had an inkling of my
meaning, for a perceptible shadow fell over his face and his
eyes narrowed to slits.
"We are going to telephone to the City in the Clouds.
People will come from there and take you away — that
will be easily managed. You will have some form of trial,
and then — execution."
294 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
I never saw a change from red to white so sudden. That
big face suddenly became a hideous, sickly white, toneless
and opaque like the belly of a sole.
"You won't deliver me to the Chinese?" he gasped. "You
can't know them as I do. They'd take a week killing me!
They have horrible secrets — "
His voice died away in a whimper, and if ever I saw a
man in deadly terror, it was that man then.
But I hardened my heart. I remembered how Morse
and Juanita had suffered for two years at this man's hands.
I remembered four murders, to my own knowledge, and I
shrugged my shoulders.
"I can't help that. You have made your bed, and you
must lie upon it."
"But such a bed!" he murmured, and his head fell for-
ward on his chest.
His arms were bound at the elbow, but he could move
the lower portion, and he now brought his right hand to
"I'll telephone," said Bill, and went to the wall by the
door where hung the instrument.
I sat gloomily watching the man in the chair.
What was he doing? His jaw was moving up and down.
He seemed biting at his wrist.
Suddenly there was a slight, tearing, ripping noise, fol-
lowed by a jerk backwards of his head and a deep intake
of the breath.
"What is he doing?" Rolston said, turning round with the
receiver of the telephone at his ear.
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 295
Midwinter held out his arm. I saw that the braid round
the cuff of his morning coat was hanging in a little strip.
"I told you I always had something in reserve," he said,
showing all his teeth as he grinned at me, "Always some-
thing up my sleeve — literally, in this case. I have just
swallowed a little capsule of prussic acid which — "
If you want to learn of how a man dies who has swallowed
hydrocyanic acid — the correct term, I believe — consult a
medical dictionary. It is not a pleasant thing to see in
actual operation, but, thank heavens, it is speedy!
The sweat was pouring down my face when it was over,
but Bill Rolston had not turned a hair.
"Put something over his face, Sir Thomas," he said, "and
I'll get through to Mr. Morse."
I TAKE up my pen this evening, exactly ten years after I
wrote the last paragraph of the above narrative, to read of
James Antony Midwinter, dead like a poisoned rat in his
chair, with a sort of amazement in my mind.
The whole story has been locked in a safe for ten long
years, and that blessed and happy time has made the wild
adventures, the terrible moments in the City in the Clouds,
indeed seem things far off and long ago.
This afternoon I paid what will probably be my last visit
to the strange kingdom up there.
I stood with my little son. Viscount Kirby, and my small
daughter, Lady Juanita, and my wife, the Countess of Stax,
at a very solemn ceremony.
In the presence of a Government official, a representative
of His Majesty — Colonel Patrick Moore, of the Irish
Guards, A.D.C. — the Cardinal Archbishop, and a few pri-
vate friends, I watched the elmwood shell, containing Gideon
Mendoza Morse, placed in its marble tomb.
It was his wish, to be buried there in his fantastic City,
and no one said him nay. Well, the body lies in its place,
two hundred weeping Chinamen are returning to the Flow-
ery Land, wealthy beyond their utmost hopes, and in a few
months the City in the Clouds will dissolve and disappear.
The rich treasures are coming to Stax, my castle in Nor-
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 297
folk — such as are not bequeathed, by Morse's munificence,
to the museums of England and the galleries at Brazil.
Soon the immense plateau will be England's aerial ter-
minus for the mail ships from all parts of the world.
While Gideon Morse lived it was impossible to publish
the truth. It is to appear now, at last, and I simply want
to tie a few loose ends, and to bring down the curtain,
leaving nothing unexplained.
First of all let me say that the general public knew
nothing at all of the horrors in which I was so intimately
Juanita and I were married very quietly in Westminster
Cathedral soon after Midwinter went to his account. The
enormous fortune that she brought me, supplementing my
own very considerable means, operated in the natural way.
Other journals were added to the Evening Special, and we
started a great campaign for the sweetening of ordinary life,
and not unsuccessfully, as every one knows.
They made me a baron, and four years afterwards, Earl
of Stax. As for my father-in-law, he refused to budge from
the City in the Clouds.
I don't mean that he didn't make appearances in so-
ciety, but he loved to get back to his fantastic haven, from
whence, like a magician, he showered benefits upon Lon-
Arthur Winstanley, as everybody knows, is Under-
Secretary for India and the most rising politician of our
It is said that William Rolston, editor of the Evening
298 THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS
Special, is our most brilliant journalist, though the older
school condemn him for an excess of imagination. I saw the
other day, in the old-fashioned Thunderer, a slashing attack
upon a series of articles which had recently appeared upon
China, and which the critic of the Thunderer conclusively
proved to be written from an abysmal depth of ignorance.
I don't often go to the office now, though I am still pro-
prietor of the paper, but when I do, and sit in the editorial
room, I miss Julia Dewsbury, best of all private secretaries
since the beginning of the world.
Bill, however, assures me that she is all right, entirely
taken up with the children, and not in the least inclined
to bully him in spite of her eight years advantage in age.
"To that woman," says Bill reverentially, "I owe every-
Let me wind up properly.
Crouching behind a high wall on Richmond Hill is a
modest hostelry still known as the "Golden Swan." It is
still my property, and pays me a satisfactory dividend. It
is run by a co-partnership, which I should say is unique.
The Honest Fool and my ex- valet, Mr. Preston, perform
this feat together, but, now that Morse is dead and the
Chinese have all departed, I fear they will lose a good deal
of custom. This I gathered from Mr. Mogridge, that pillar
of the saloon bar, who happened to meet me by chance in
Fleet Street not long ago.
" 'Alio! Why, it's Mr. Thomas, late landlord of the
'Golden Swan'!" said Mr. Mogridge. " 'Aven't seen you for
years. What are you doing now?"
THE CITY IN THE CLOUDS 299
"Oh, I'm doing very well, thank you, Mr. Mogridge. And
how is the old 'Swan'?"
"Same as ever and no dropping off in the quality of the
drinks. Still, I fear it's going down. I'm afraid it will
never be quite the same as it was in the days of Ting-A-
ling-A-ling," and here Mr. Mogridge placed his hands upon
his hips and roared with laughter at that ancient joke.
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